Carrion review

Carrion is a reverse horror game, yes you read that correctly, a reverse horror game. You are not the hunted you are the hunter within this game. As an amorphous creature, you must wreak havoc on the people that have kept and experimented on you. Establish a foothold in the facility, spread your biomass as far as you can and kill anyone in your way. Waking within a testing container, you struggle to keep your rage as you see your captors all around you. You are smashing against the glass designed to hold you back, and over time you gain the strength to break free. Screams follow the smashing of glass as you realise the chain of power is in your favour. You use your body to form tentacles and start destroying and consuming everything around you; this facility will be yours.


Developer: Phobia Game Studio
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platforms: Windows, Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 23 July 2020


The enemies are typical, nothing out of the ordinary but that is okay, they are what you would expect to be within the facility. The humans will hear you if you are too loud and either investigate or run. You can use this to your advantage in many situations. Time and time again there would be what I would call “movie scene moments” as individual approaches a drainage pipe where you are lurking only to be torn apart in front of their colleges who either run or help. There is a sense of power that the game gives you, and it is a fun experience being the hunter rather than the hunted. What I found interesting with the humans within the game was the subversion of hope in the last stand. Typically, a human who is about to die and has taken it upon themselves to take the attacker down with them signifies a sense of hope. But being the attacker in this situation the game subverts that hope, it instead becomes futile as you continue your rampage through the facility. The game caters to your predator instincts, and there are frequently many ways that you can approach situations. Allowing you to stalk the humans as they stand there trying to find you, you can play to the horror aspect of the game.

The OST highlights this horror aspect well. With classic horror tropes of unsettling music and noises that accompany your rampage. Naturally, the sounds would make you feel scared, but as you are the monster, they make you feel that much creepier. You start to think more about how you are playing the game. It is a weird thought; Horror sounds make you more focused on being a monster.

However, enemies do get better. They start using machine guns and shields that make you think about how you’re going to approach a situation. In the beginning, you can launch into any room take a few pistol shots and destroy everyone in sight. Once they start brandishing shields that have electricity on them, you must consider how to use the space around you seriously. After all, you are an amorphous blob so you can fit anywhere. The change in difficulty is a jarring experience for the player. It makes you realise that you are not invisible, you learn that you are not as strong as you appear. I enjoyed this little aspect; it both serves to add difficulty to the game and applies a learning experience for both the player and the monster you are controlling. The monster is learning the rules of the world, just like the player. I thought that it worked quite well within the context of the game, I kept coming back to movies with monsters like this, and there is always a learning experience for them.

Trying to figure out how to approach the situation is quite fun.

The learning experience does not stop there. The monster/player also learns that as an amorphous monster that can gain more and more size, there is limitless potential. With three different sizes that affect how you play the game; the first being the smallest, which is the sneakiest, allowing you to be invisible and use a web to hit leavers form a distance. The second is the most useful, in my opinion, allowing you to break through barriers to get into new areas and still be a little sneaky if needed. The third is the overpowered broken destroy everything mode, allowing you to take a lot of damage, protect your body with a shield and shoot spikey tentacles all over the room devastating anything in their paths. The forms provide an exciting way to build puzzles within the game, with the ability to switch between them by either dropping off mass or picking mass up at specific areas. It is exciting and allows you to approach the game how you want. Do you want to be invisible and strike enemies from the shadows? Or do you want to be able just to burst into a room-filling it with your amorphous blob-like body and leave the enemies struggling to find room to fight you?

There is an attempt at a story with some flashback scenes that, unfortunately, takes you away from what makes the game enjoyable. In the flashback scenes you must take control of a human wandering through the same facility you are haunting. At the same time, I do appreciate the attempt to add a little story to the game. But I believe the game itself provides enough enjoyment that you do not particularly need it. 

That is the main struggle with Carrion. There is a lot of pacing problems that I faced; for example, areas do not repopulate over time. Usually, this would not be an issue, but there is a lot of backtracking within the game. Rooms feel empty and make an already dull task that much more boring. The negative to the map is that there is no real direction; you feel like you are just exploring and hoping that you find the next area. At the same time, this can be an advantage in this style of games, unfortunately with Carrion if you combine that with the lack of repopulation. You end up just searching through the map regularly to desperately to get back to what the game does best and leads to weird pacing issues within the game. You have a bloody and fearsome fight to the death. Then you are left to travel through empty rooms where the game is reliant on just its movement being fun, which it is! But his is not enough to fill those slow moments in. The fun becomes few and far between towards the middle/end of the game, and it slows it down to a point where playing can become a chore. 

Overall, the gameplay is enjoyable and allows you to be a little creative with how you tackle situations. But the lack of repopulation and direction within the map itself leads to moments where you are just searching for the action. The game is an enjoyable play, but I would love to see some more enemies while you are roaming areas you have cleared. I understand that technically you have killed everyone, but maybe they could put SWAT-like teams who search the map for you. Or have them attack some of the nests you have made, forcing you to other areas of the map to defend yourself. There is a lot of good here, but also a lot to be desired. It is a fun game that works with its premise very well, and you will get enough out of it! It is currently on Gamepass, so if you have a moment, I recommend trying it!

The Steam Game Festival: GhostRunner Preview

First up in my Steam Game Fest preview series has to be GhostRunner from One More Level. A hardcore FPP slasher which requires you to build up momentum to avoid your enemies and slash them down. I got my hands on the free demo last week, the demo only last around about 10 minutes or so but it’s got me excited to get this game later this year.


Developer: One More Level, 3D Realms, Slipgate Ironworks
Publisher:
All In! Games
Genre:  
Hardcore FPP Slasher
Release Date:
2020
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC, Xbox One


Set in a grim cyberpunk world, you a cyborg assassin must ascend tower-city to take on the tyrannical Keymaster. The Dharma Tower is humanity’s last hope at survival, but the Keymaster shows little regard for his subjects and chaos assumes in the fight for resources. The demo takes places during the tutorial phase of the game, where you must escape the prison, presumably at the bottom of this tower. On your way, you must rescue the whisper.

The demo shows off some of the basic skills which are available in GhostRunner you can wall run, jump, slash, dash and even manage to slow time to dodge your enemies. You must combine these skills, to not only slay your enemies but also build up speed. You must always be moving. The enemies can lock onto you, and one-shot means your down, so the stakes are high. The skill in GhostRunner is very much based on your reaction times and choices made under pressure.

The press release states, “As the most advanced blade fighter ever created, you’re always outnumbered, but never outclassed.” This is very much the case, your move set feels flawless, as you can quickly come out of time and slash down your enemies. Despite its frustration, you the player must look around for different ways of taking down the multitude of enemies.

I really enjoy the cyberpunk setting, and GhostRunner has a stunning version of it. Combining it with a slashing game takes it away from the shooters that are typically associated with the genre, makes it something different. While the combat is somewhat akin to what we’ve seen before, it is still enjoyable, and I really enjoyed the sword vs gun take on the cyberpunk world. However, it feels like the sword is used as a ranged weapon, due to the speed of your character.

I’m certainly excited to see what other skills you can have in your arsenal to progress the game. In the demo it is said that your hardware is damaged, so it’s going to be interesting to see what your fully able cyber warrior is capable of.

With further delays to Cyberpunk 2077GhostRunner may be the perfect cyberpunk filler to keep you going till November. With an absolutely stunning setting, some excellent combat and hopefully a phenomenal story, GhostRunner can be one of the top releases of 2020.

Minecraft Dungeons Review

Minecraft Dungeons is an Action-adventure game that is inspired by older Dungeon Crawlers and set in the Minecraft world. With the limitless possibilities of the Minecraft world, I was eager to find out what they could do with Minecraft Dungeons. The evil Arch-Illager has been rejected by his people, wandering alone he is rejected by the villagers and stumbles upon the Orb of Dominance, he seeks vengeance. Alone, or together with friends, you must save the villagers and stop the corruption spread by the Arch-Illager. Fighting through the hordes of the undead, through caves of spiders and even through banquet halls, you will find new weapons and powers that will make you unstoppable. Not that you were not in the first place, just more… unstoppable-er?


Developer: Mojang Studios
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Platforms: Windows, Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 26 May 2020


Minecraft Dungeons, when first booted up, surprised me. There was an accessibility menu before you even start. The accessibility options were not in the depths of the in-game-menus, no it was there instantly, ready to welcome anyone that wanted to play. I loved that there was a welcoming embrace before you even started. We see this more and more, video game developers focusing on accessibility options, and it is beautiful. More, please! The accessibility is also within its gameplay; it is not over complicated and is a great place to start with ARGPs.

As previously mentioned, the game is accessible and an excellent entry point into the ARPG genre. The mechanics of the game are barebones and straightforward; there is no over-complication. You do not need to worry about classes, because there are none. You have three slots on your character that are for a Melee weapon, a ranged weapon and Armor. That is it, besides your relics which act as abilities. The game provides a fluid movement for players to experiment with different types of weapons and skills, leaving you with the freedom to experiment. The game, while yes, is simple it does offer a little bit of depth, however not much. Each piece of equipment (Minus relics), can be enchanted with points you earn from levelling up. The enchantments vary per item, but you can enchant weapons and Armor with some impressive abilities.

For example, my favourite weapons in the game were the duel sickles. They were fast and could dish out high DPS. Two enchantments that I used were Gravity, which pulled mobs towards you and an ability that created lightning strikes when I hit something. I stood still started to hit everything got pulled into me and died an electrifying death. It made me feel mighty! While the enchantments are fun, there isn’t anything to write home about, they do their job very well and synchronize well enough. The best thing about enchantments is that you never have to commit to them. You do not ever lose the points that you spend on enchantments, as when you find a better item you can scrap your old item for some emeralds and the enchantment points you spent will be returned. This is a great feature, its helpful to newer players, they never misspend points because its impossible. It allows players to experiment with any item they find. It also means that once you are bored with a specific type of weapon, you can find a new kind and enchant that. You are never bound to a particular playstyle.

However, I will mention that the ranged options, specifically the crossbows, are over-powered. You can stand at a safe distance and spam shots into mobs, they have tried to nerf this with an ammo system. But unfortunately, through enchantments, this gets nullified very quickly. The character will automatically aim for you. Also, some crossbows are automatic, therefore, making the system effortless and broken. With the enchantments for crossbows, bosses just become a joke, stand far enough away from them, and you can continuously rain arrows upon them, making the more difficult modes easy.

Unfortunetly the AI within the game are easy to manipulate. Enemies will just run directly towards you. There is no need to approach them the majority of the time. As for ranged enemies, you can stand behind pillars and they will repeatedly shoot at you, line of sight does not appear to be something they try to get. This means it is quite easy to run and hide to get some health back, the enemies never present much of a threat. Although, there is some interesting mechanics that they have tried. For example, the spiders will shoot their webs at you and it will trap you for a moment. Once you are trapped they pounce on you, honestly if they were not so easy to kill, it would be terrifying.

The game takes place over a single map and once you have completed that map you are then tasked with replaying the map at a higher difficulty. The great thing the developers have chosen to do is include difficulty sliders within each difficulty bracket so that you can play each mission at a level that suits you. This was great, and I found that the recommended difficulty was decent enough, and the enemies provided some challenge. However, this creates artificial content. I dislike when games have a very short campaign and try to get you to replay it by making it difficult. It doesn’t add anything for me, at all. That goes to say, the campaign is concise, and we had finished it within a few hours.

The ‘Blocky Minecraft’ aesthetic was at first a concern for me, but when within the game, it looks beautiful. The characters move fluidly, and all look as if they belong in the world. The aesthetic is colourful and exciting. Building a sense of wonder and prompting you to explore the world. The game will always point you in the right direction so that you are never lost. But for those who choose to adventure more, you are rewarded with secret levels hidden away and chests containing powerful loot.

The game boasts a relaxing and carefree mood, despite the actual gameplay being quite chaotic at times. The music is honestly great, composed by the same artist of the Minecraft main series C418 and a few tracks from other composers. It accompanies the aesthetic of the game beautifully and lends from the Minecraft playlist. The music produced some nostalgia for old memories within the Minecraft world. The music also builds a sense of wonder; after all, you are still exploring caves and fields full of treasure and danger.

Corrupted by evil… Driven by vengeance… The Arch-Illager made all bow before him… And if they did not bow… they would fall. – Introduction Cutscene

The story is, unfortunately, unimaginative. For a franchise that boasts a beautiful affinity to help a person explore their creativeness, the game seems to forget this. It is very generic, and half of the time, you never honestly know what you are doing in terms of the story. While yes, the game does a great job at highlighting objectives and pointing you in the right direction. Sometimes you stop and wonder “why on earth am I destroying a buffet?”. The game does have introduction cut scenes, but as stated, if you are not the host of the world, you will rarely see them. The final boss ‘The Arch-Illager’, has not been done any justice, and although his fight is pretty exciting and enjoyable, his story is lacking. However, the game hints to another story brewing so we can only hope that they build on a character that is interesting, just not fleshed out.

The DLC problem

So, I’m going to run you through the first time I loaded Minecraft Dungeons. I got into a party with some friends, and we all started at the same time, we did our introductions, got to our hub, and I sent the invites out. As everyone was joining, there was a huge map that served as our mission selection, I loaded it up in massive anticipation of the So, I’m going to run you through the first time I loaded Minecraft Dungeons. I got into a party with some friends, and we all started at the same time, we did our introductions, got to our hub, and I sent the invites out. As everyone was joining, there was a huge map that served as our mission selection, I loaded it up in massive anticipation of the adventures waiting, and I saI would say a small message, but let us be fair, it is quite significant.

TWO NEW MAPS COMING SOON!

Paid DLC advertised on the main map of what could be an offline experience, on day one. Well, there we have it. We all know what is coming, a bombardment of DLC to the game to bolster its lack of content. Now DLC is not a bad thing, but the announcement so early in its lifespan is concerning. The main game is relatively short. And while yes, you can argue there is some length if you complete the game on all three difficulty settings. For a stand-alone experience of the story, there is not much, and it is lacking.

Upon finishing the game, I noticed that there were so many biomes and bosses from Minecraft that were not within the game. Now that’s fine, and they don’t have to be. But seeing that the new DLC is introducing two new biomes in the form of maps, this has me concerned. Are they going to take every aspect of Minecraft and resell it as DLC within Minecraft Dungeons? Mojang has announced there will be free content coming, so we only have to wait and see what they do. 

Minecraft Dungeons for me was a fun experience, the gameplay is enjoyable and can at times get hectic. The ease of combat and enchantment management was relaxing. The way that the game manages a non-commitment style to the weapons and armours to choose is great for people trying the genre for the first time. I can’t help but comment on the potential that they have used the base game to introduce people to the genre to make the game more complicated in the future. Not that it needs it! I do not see a problem with the lack of depth within the game. My primary concern comes from a lack of content and the DLC announcements. The new DLC should boost the game, and we have to wait and see how they manage their free updates.

For achievement hunters, the game is a breeze for the full gamerscore. It just requires you to complete it on the three difficulties. The rest you will unlock through natural gameplay.

Control Review

Control is a third-person supernatural action-adventure game that explores the secretive agency, Control. Created by Remedy Entertainment, the game follows the story of Jesse Faden and her search for answers. When Jesse was a child, her town, Ordinary, was erased from existence by the agency. Along with a supernatural entity within her mind, Polaris, we search the building for answers. Jesse is a great character, consumed by her need to find her brother and what happened to her town, she stumbles into her destiny. Upon entering the agency, it is clear that there has been an attack of what nature is unclear at the beginning. We then stumble upon The Director, dead in his office, after picking up his gun Jesse finds herself in the astral plane. This plain is where Jesse gains her abilities, through touching possessed items Jesse is teleported here to beat a challenge to gain that ability. The gun becomes connected to Jesse, and she starts to hear The Old Director talking to her, guiding her to become the new Director.


Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Publisher: 505 Games
Platforms: Windows, Xbox One, PS4
Release Date: 27 August 2019



We find out that the HISS (Jesse’s name for them), have invaded the agency. A silent antagonist that take Control over the people that it possesses. Also, they gain supernatural abilities, such as flight. At first, this was horrifying for me, a silent enemy that could control anyone that was not wearing the correct equipment to fend them off. The great thing about Control is that the Hisses control feels to slip as you become better and better. The enemy that, at the beginning of the game, haunted me, was becoming easier to deal with every moment.  However, they would never take it easy and would continuously swarm towards me, trying to overwhelm me every opportunity they got. The abilities within the game allow you to adapt to many different situations. Each fight becomes a testament to how quickly you can react. If an enemy is about to shoot you, quickly get your shield up. Or, if an enemy is rushing you, then throw some Rocks at it.

Apart from your weapons, there are also abilities that you can use to attack enemies. The first being an ability that allows you to pick up debris around you and launch in through the air. Possibly the most satisfying ability the game has to offer, combined with a shield ability that allows you to use concrete from the floor to block enemy attacks. You can later upgrade this to launch all the debris from your shield as a wall of concrete, destroying anything trying to attack you. There is also an ability that allows you to take control of an enemy for a short period, this allow them to attack for you, but this was an ability that I rarely used. The ammo management is also impressive and adds some difficulty to the game. There is no ammo. Your weapons have a charge that decreases like a clip as you fire them. You then have a short cooldown window where the gun is powering back up. Meaning you can no longer just run and gun, you have to approach each situation differently; you can’t just rely on your guns.


The scenery also lends to the slight horrific setting; it’s ordinary. It’s an office. The details are so realistic that it could be a functional place, besides the shifting doors and rubber ducks that want you dead. This setting, a hidden office that serves to hide the supernatural and paranormal phenomenon’s under attack by a faceless enemy. It is just plain scary. The fact that, this could be happening with no one knowing, is what scare me. Everything within the office is horrifying, but normal. The people within the agency, act as if this is just another situation bad day at the office. Nothing special to them. But to Jesse and us, it’s crazy! The office will warp and change in ways that mess your mind up, you have to almost throw all logic out of the window and accept whatever your eyes see. THat’s the only way to understnad what is going on with the world.


Each section of the office also holds some interesting lore and side quests, that if you choose to follow, will lead you down the rabbit hole. I found an office that was infested with post-it notes and a fridge that was deadly if you looked away from it. One of my favourite moments was discovering a department that analyzed objects related to luck and probability. With horseshoes scattered around and an apparent puzzle was hidden within, my mind started racing. After roughly an hour of moving object into certain positions and switching lights off in specific codes, I felt like I was going crazy. Still, eventually, I got the puzzle right. I was rewarded with a golden suit for Jesse to wear, and boy, did I wear the shit out of that suit. Remedy reminded me of a time where customization items were found through secrets, not bought through microtransactions. Not something I thought this game would do but, here we go. Thank you Remedy for including cosmetics that we can earn.


The gameplay is simple, move through the corrupted departments and clear them out through your save points’ Control Points’, these points also act as your fast travel spots, so they are worth unlocking. Within them you can also upgrade Jesse’s abilities, allowing you to fly for longer or take more damage. You can hyper-focus on a skill that you like, then play around that. For me, I focused on the pistol and the flying, which allowed me to fly around popping shots whenever I got the opportunity. The gameplay is enjoyable and rewarding. The game also has a photo mode which allows you to take increadible screenshots, I love a good photo mode. I spend way to much time using them.


The story is also such a breath of fresh air, presenting you with an enjoyable surface story, and if you enjoy digging, a plethora of side lore and hidden stories that you can discover. I highly recommend Control, and it’s such an enjoyable experience, filled with some exciting ideas. The story is excellent, and Jesse’s growth is fully visible, she grows into her role and gains control of a secret world she had been chasing for years. I would higly reccomend Control, specifically because the gameplay alone is fun and enjoyable. The story just adds to a wonderful game and a wonderful expereince.

Backlog Lockdown: Wolfenstein New Order Review

Wolfenstein has been one of those games that I started playing “back in the day” but just struggled to get past the first couple of missions for whatever reason. I’m a bit of a history buff, so anything in the past gets me interested, and the direction MachineGames and previously Raven Studio’s ‘re-imagining’ of the series provided a ‘what if’ scenario. What if Nazi Germany won World War II. During my reading of A Man in a High Castle (by Phillip K. Dick) this just played on my mind, so I decided to crack on with my playthrough of a New Order and help William “B.J.” Blazkowicz take down the Nazi’s.


Developer: MachineGames
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platforms: Steam, GOG.com, Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 20 May 2014


Story

Following the events of Raven Studio’s Wolfenstein (2009), the war has turned in the Nazi’s favour. So the combination of Allied troops attacks William ‘Deathshead’ Strauss’s fortress, Where you’ll find all sorts of gruesomeness before your capture. You find yourself in a human experimentation laboratory. Where you must choose between comrades Fergus Reid and Private Probst Wyatt III, one will become a subject of Deathshead’s sick experiments. This event separates the timelines in which New Order takes place. However, very little is different, other than lock picking mechanics and a couple of character changes, who have minimal impact on the overall plot.

Deathshead and his overpowered allies

After this, B.J. is in an explosion resulting in him being a vegetative state, where is placed in a psychiatric asylum in what remains of Poland. During this period he witnesses the horror of the Nazi regime as they take patients away from the asylum, who claim they Untermensch (inferior) and are taken to Strauss for more experimentation. In 1960, 14 years later, the asylum was forced to shut down by the Nazis, but luckily B.J. is the perfect Nazi killing machine and quickly awakens from his state, takes down a small army and saves one of the nurses, Anya. With whom he travels to Berlin and joins the Kreisau Circle, a resistance group, and this is where the main plot carries on.

How about those nice Aryan features

The early game of New Order is what drives the narrative before on the face of things seems to get lost into its retro-futuristic, sci-fi, Nazi vision. (need to extend this a bit) B.J.’s character design is called into question in an early mission, with a Nazi’s commander complimented him on his Aryan features and telling him that she would be able to identify an inferior person just by being able to look at him. B.J. is of Jewish heritage, which was seen an inferior people, however, his blonde hair, blue eyes and muscular stature conflict this idea making him a paradox of the Nazi race hierarchy, a superior Jew. This scene is a brilliant critique of race science.

His actions in the game further B.J.s character design; he is a personification of an ideal USA. He strongly believes in the American constitution; the country is a land of the free. This is what drives his hatred for the Nazis. However, there a couple of characters who challenge this. Specifically J, an African-American member of the Kreisau Circle who explains his experiences with racism before the war and explains how the countries ideology was similar to that of the Nazi party, calling into question B.J.s loyalty to the “man” of the USA.

Gameplay

Want to feel like a superhero

New Order is an FPS which allows the players the option of rushing hordes of enemies or taking a stealth option. At times it feels like you’re playing as a superhero, allowing you to select from a variety of weapons but most of all when you dual-wield, specifically the shotguns, which will enable you to take down enemy after enemy in quick succession. The superhero mentality is combated with a dual-health system, split into armour and health, which quickly disintegrates, meaning you have to dive into cover immediately, hopping between them in search of health and armour packs. It’s this that makes the game more tactical, as you have to plan your route to avoid or flank ever moving enemies. 

Dependent on your timeline chosen during the first mission, you will have one of two mini-games which can help you progress through other routes to sneak around enemies or find collectables. Fergus’ timeline provides with the hotwire mini-game while Wyatt’s is the lockpick mini-game. Neither of this is challenging to complete, and I felt they were a pointless addition to the game. Another difference, as mentioned before, is the Kerisau Circle members available during the safehouse missions, these levels are your breath of fresh air in an ever ending swarm of gunfights and hack and slashing. It’s these mission that leads to exciting background stories being told through several different sources and cutscenes.

Look and Feel

Wolfenstein is a phenomenal looking game with its stunning visuals and level designs. While the FPS mechanics make for an almost perfect gunfight, ducking and dodging behind cover. B.J. narration allows you to get inside the head of his character and will enable you to live his thoughts as he is continuously in the face of danger. The level of realism in this game is another quality I would like to mention; it’s the little details like if you gain a headshot on a soldier would mean his helmet could drop which can be used to boost your armour. If enemies are hit with a grenade they will explode so there is a lot of blood and guts to go around during gunfights. However, the game can at times make you feel like an overpowered superhero, which does take away from that realism and the dual shotguns although useful annoy me for apparent reason. But the retro-futuristic scenery makes anything seem possible.

Had to reboot my Xbox so lost all my screenshot, but this piece isn’t far from the actual scenes that take place in the gameplay.

Final Thoughts

Wolfenstein is a great game from beginning to end, although I do feel it got caught up in its fantasy of the future which took away from the narrative slightly the gameplay and final boss fight more than makes up for that. B.J. was a fascinating character, when delved into and starting to have played New Colossus, it seems that the sequel adds more to his character and the others. I’m not usually a massive fan of the FPS genre so Wolfenstein was a big surprise for me and I can’t wait to get stuck into New Colossus. 

NieR Automata: Become as God Review

From above, an alien army of robots come to destroy humankind. In an attempt to survive humans retreat to the moon and in desperation to take back Earth, they create YORHA. Stationed on the Bunker, YoRHa Units are androids whose purpose is to reclaim Earth in battle. Equipped with a small AI Companion referred to as a pod, 2B charges into action. Meeting with 9S, a scout unit, the pair head into a fight they have been part of their entire lives.

Developer: PlatinumGames
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: Steam, Microsoft Windows, Xbox One, PlayStation4
Release Date: 23 February 2017

“For the glory of mankind.”

Council of Humanity

The attraction of Nier Automata is the narrative that it presents. One that has certainly been done before, but not quite as effective as Nier Automata. What does it mean to be human? What is the meaning of life? Through a lens of machines and androids, Nier Automata attempts to apply humanity to non-human life forms. Through that narrative, they as questions that have plagued humans and add their interpretation. Or do they?

The main focus of the game revolves around the Machine Wars, specifically the 14th war. The focus becomes whether or not the machines that you are fighting are sentient, or are they simply act out human behaviour? The game does nothing the hide this and begins the questions early as on we see 2B and 9S facing machineswho on the surface are acting human. Machines are striving to think for themselves. However, they are all linked through a giant network. As humans, we are connecting through our humanity our want to help and be kind to each other. Through their network, they attempt the same, to protect each other and help each other. The machines search for all forms of emotion and strive to find love and loyalty with some forming cults, groups and even kingdoms.

There is also the question of identity. Not just with the machines, but with our main characters 2B and 9S. Are they simply androids programmed to fight the Machine War? Or are they individuals with likes and dislikes? With hopes and dreams? There is a lot of food for thought offered within Nier Automata, that admittedly, kept me wanting to play more than the example did.

Game Play

That is not to say that the gameplay is lacking far from it. The game is an action role-playing game that has hack and slash elements. You start as the Battle Unit 2B you are sent to Earth to fight a Goliath class machine. The fight goes pear-shaped, with 2B’s unit not surviving the journey to Earth. Now alone she joins with 9S, a scout unit that helps in any way he can.

We see the difference between 2B and 9S within the first moments of the game. 9S is full of personality and is happy that he is not alone as he states that being a scout unit means he has to be on his own a lot. 2B is a strict battle unit with a mission she must complete. Upon completing your task, in a rather unconventional way, the pair must return to Earth to help with the resistance.

The hack and slash gameplay is beautiful. Equipped with a sword that you can launch through the air for more range 2B is a destructive force. You can equip two weapons which you assign to two different attacks. I tended to use a lighter weapon and a heavy weapon to replicate a more traditional form of heavy and light attacks. But you can change this up any way you want. The game also offered many types of ranged attacks: You can use your weapons for attacks that have some range or, you can use your Pod (An AI companion). The Pod has a machine gun that does decent damage and can have a secondary attack/function. Usually, I would use the Pod to attack as I close the distance leaving my enemy vulnerable to my strike.

The core system allows you to specify your character.

There are a few variations in enemies that require you to think before you attack. You have standard ground units and a few aerial units, mix in a few giant robots, and the situation becomes a mess. You can run from fights and only battle when you need too, but the game is so visually impressive and satisfying that you frequently fight out of pleasure. A weird statement but the style that you adopt quickly becomes second nature to you while fighting, and the satisfaction of the visuals and fighting is genuinely excellent.

The game was challenging. The machines are not just the rust buckets their appearance would have you believe; they pack quite the punch. When you die, you must collect your body to regain your cores, leaving you vulnerable after ever death. However, I found that once you started to rack up a lot of money within the game death becomes a non-factor. The ability to buy healing potions and the ease to use them during combat just meant that I would spam through healing every time I took damage, and I never saw any consequence. Leaving whatever boss I was fighting just struggling before death with their only option to kill me being a one-shot-KO, which does happen.

The core system allows you to customise your android unit. You can place in utility cores that will enable you to slow time when dodging an attack or heal when outside of combat. You can customise the way you fight too with the ability to place attacking or defensive cores within your unit. For myself, I tend to go more attacking, after-all a good defence is a great offence. I like to be relentless when fighting opponents by continually being in their face and not allowing them to attack.

Beauty can be dangerous as Simone displays.

Boss fights are fantastic within Nier Automata, and they never leave you feeling delighted with the outcome, you always leave wondering if killing them was correct. There are a few boss fights with Machines that have you wondering whether they deserved to die, or if there was a way to help them instead of simply killing them. One of my favourite bosses in the game is Simone, a Machine that has adopted a human ideology of beauty. Draping itself with beautiful things and shiny objects, it becomes corrupted by its need to find love through looking beautiful. The fight is both exciting and challenging, introducing a hacking mechanic and gameplay.

The main villains within the game Adam and Eve (Symbolism at its best) are two androids born from the collective machine life forms. They adapt quickly and become increasingly interested in the meaning of their life and the human species. The fights with them are incredible and thought-provoking in a way that made me pause the game after each battle to scribble into my notepad. The struggles with these two are emotionally challenging, as they throw questions about the meaning of life towards you that at first, you do not expect. Quickly throwing you from a reflective mood to an all-out attack that adds to the way this game subverts traditional gameplay through emotional connection.

There are a few gripes with the gameplay. The way the game switches between a 2D and 3D plane is irritating. The game, for the most part, is 3D and switches to 2D for things just as the hacking mini-games or the flying battles in which you control a flight suit in a Galaga style of gameplay. These switches are excellent and work very well. However, while running around, you will find areas that for some reason, change to a platformer style with 3D elements and these areas are just unnecessary. They don’t work and pull you out of an otherwise fantastic experience. My primary example of this is within the Forest Kingdom. When entering the castle the game becomes 2D and inherits platformer style gameplay, but the map and the way you move through it is so confusing and clunky. Switching into slightly 3D areas within it also adds to more of the confusion and it becomes easy to get lost.

An example of a boss fight within a hacking mini-game

That is not to say that the 2D mechanics throughout are bad at all! The mini-games, for example, are amazing and challenging. If it weren’t for my upbringing playing The Binding of Isaac, I would have found these mini-games much more difficult. They become bullet hells, and the simple design means that it is easy to differentiate from a bullet and your character. I enjoyed the hacking mini-games for what they represented. It must be hard to create a mini-game to represent hacking that is fun and meaningful. But Nier Automata manages to portray the systems working to stop you as actual enemies and your hacking as a weapon.

The music and world

The music within Nier Automata is sublime. Simply put, it helps keep the player in check with the emotional cues that the game is trying to convey. Which within Nier Automata becomes quite intricate as the music helped me feel like I was the last hope for humanity, like every battle I was entering was to further the survival of the race. Music to help a player feel angry or sad is something done every day, but when music helps the player feel hopeless or hopeful, then it becomes interesting to me.

This hopefulness translates to the map also. A city of sky scrappers that has been reclaimed by nature, with giant trees and roots growing through all the concrete, it leaves a beautiful scene. Roaming around you see giant boars and moose that have been allowed to grow in peace, after-all the machines have no real use for them. Birds fly through the sky, and this is a focal point for the characters as they enter Earth, its a beautiful and natural sight that they would not have seen on the industrial and metallic bunker.

What is more interesting about the map is the way it evolves. Without spoiling anything within the story, the events that happen within the map effect the landscape itself. Signs of past battles scatter the streets and destruction is present as you traverse it. I loved this, instead of being introduced to different locations constantly, the map changes with your actions. The map changes with the events within the story, not that you have any psychical impact.

The theme for the amusement park has to be my favourite.

Multiple endings.

Personally, unless I am committed to a series, I’m not too bothered with multiple endings. I enjoy them, but I am not a person that will strive to replay something to get a second ending or a secret ending. I am as my experience, be it good or bad, it reflects my choices. Nier Automata is different in that the endings are more like extensions of the story. There are five, which sounds like a lot, but they don’t take too long to complete, I think my entire playthrough was close to 20 hours.

If you don’t want to play through the multiple endings, then you don’t have to. You are not under any obligation to, instead, the game only thanks you for playing and suggests that you may want to complete the net chapter. Plus the beautiful thing about ending A is that it is a nicely contained story and you would be happy at just that (I certainly was). BUT I would highly recommend staying and playing through the entirety of Nier Automata as each ending only adds more fuel to the fire and will have you living the game more and more.

Nier Automata is a game that I wished I had played before we made our top ten of the decade. This game is utterly and impossibly fantastic; it would have been effortlessly on the high side of my list. Possibly heading its way into my top five games I’ve ever played, the story is fantastic, and the gameplay only keeps you wanting to play more. True, the 3D to 2D elements at times irked me, but I was willing to accept them. I even made sure to play through all five of the endings, it was worth it, well worth it.

If you usually read my reviews, you know that story is something that I tend to focus on, and it is slightly missing in this review. Simply put, I don’t want to spoil too much within this review, and I do have a two-part essay in the works, explicitly talking through Humanity/identity and its role within Nier: Automata. So if that interests you Follow me on my twitter for an update as to when that goes live! @UnCaptSquigz