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Review: Breach

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Publisher/Developer: QC Games
Platform: PC
Release Date: January 2019

I was extremely excited to be invited into the Technical Alpha testing for Breach, a game that is expected to be released in early access just next month. Breach is a third person co-op action RPG that has strong hints of Over-salt… I mean, Overwatch.

What’s it about?

Breach takes place in our world, but the veil between the “real” world and the world of mythology has been broken. You can either play as a Hero – with various class choices – or as a Veil Demon.

As a Hero, you can be any number of classes. You don’t have to stick to the standard balanced party of tank, healer and DPS, though it helps. As a Veil Demon, you create breaches, which summons monsters, and try to defeat the Heroes.

Breach has solo, co-op and versus modes. You can also do a custom mode with just your friends.

What did I think?

Gameplay reminded me strongly of Overwatch, but it was still extremely unique. There are various types of objectives for each area. I am unsure if they’re chosen by the game or by the Veil Demon. You may have to capture a point, defeat all enemies, deliver artifacts to a drone, or collect and deliver monster souls to a drone. At the end of each match is a boss. Either the Heroes can win an objective or the Veil Demon can win an objective.

I started out in solo play to get the hang of it. Even in Novice, this is difficult. You spawn in with 3 bots and you’re up against a Veil Demon bot. The Hero bots will only help you kill monsters, they won’t help you with any of the other objectives. This makes sense, of course, but timed capture objectives are nearly impossible when you’re the only one capturing the points.

I moved on to co-op mode. Four players are up against a Veil Demon bot. These are pretty cookie cutter so far. Each location has a set pattern of objectives.

Finally, I tried versus and we were annihilated. It’s 4 Heroes versus 3 Veil Demons, all played by people of varying degrees of experience. We didn’t even get to the end before we were all downed. Unfortunately, the Veil Demon of that section face camped me, so I couldn’t be revived. Needless to say, I was salty.

I did the Veil Demon tutorial, but I didn’t play a match as one.

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The game was laggy when in areas with other people, but that was to be expected. The server was only up for 3 hours and everyone who was invited to the closed Alpha was logged in. I had no lag in the solo matches. This being the Technical Alpha, I expect that that will be addressed before release.

The graphics are amazing and the gamplay itself was pretty intuitive. The tutorial is short and sweet, basically just showing you the basics before letting you into actual matches.

I like the fact that you can play by yourself with AI on both sides. It seems there’s a bit of a campaign with the solo mode, so you can unlock new areas by finishing the previous area and follow a story. I also like that you can have custom matches with up to five people.

Do I recommend it?

Yes, I really do. As someone who loves these types of games (a la Dead by DaylightFriday the 13th, and Overwatch), I definitely see a lot of potential in Breach. On Steam, it’s labeled as Free to Play, so what’s the harm in taking it for a spin when it’s released? You may also be able to still sign up to be a tester here.

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Review: Ghost of Thornton Hall

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Fire so red, night so black. Dear sweet Charlotte, please come back…

If you like point-and-click adventure games and/or enjoyed reading the Nancy Drew books growing up, you owe it to yourself to check out Her Interactive’s Nancy Drew series. All of the games are playable on Windows, and everything from Trail of the Twister onwards can be played on Macs as well. There are even step-by-step guides on Her Interactive’s website about how to play the older games on updated Windows systems and how to play them on your Mac with the Wineskin emulator- a nice gesture on their part.

Each game follows more or less the same route: Nancy arrives at a new location, gets the initial scoop on the mystery, and starts questioning the suspects (usually 3-5 people). Sometimes everything starts out calm, and then after completing a task or two, the theft/murder/kidnapping/whatever takes place. After that, you follow the trail of clues, continue questioning suspects, and solve lots and lots of puzzles to crack the case.

The game that I recently finished, Ghost of Thornton Hall, begins with Nancy receiving a phone call from a paranormal investigator in the middle of the night. A woman named Jessalyn Thornton disappeared during her bachelorette party. It appears to be a kidnapping, but some believe that the culprit is a family ghost, Charlotte.

Charlotte died in a fire under mysterious circumstances, so Nancy finds herself solving two cases: who kidnapped Jessalyn, and what’s the story behind Charlotte? Was her death truly an accident? Is her ghost really haunting the family mansion? And what does this past tragedy have to do with Jessalyn?

Growing up, I loved playing the Nancy Drew series, but as I got older, I began to lose interest. I’m not sure if there was an actual drop in quality or a change in tastes, but Ghost of Thornton Hall felt like a return to form. In fact, it was even better than some of the classics that I’d loved to play.

Other games in the series would have a great premise, but then wouldn’t completely follow through with it. For example, as much as I loved Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake, you only encounter the ghost dogs once at the beginning of the game. When you venture out into the woods at night and hear the howling, it’s terrifying- at first. But after a while, you realize that the ghost dogs aren’t going to pop up, and that takes out a chunk of the tension.

In Thornton Hall, Charlotte’s ghost does pop up throughout the game, and you never know when she’ll show herself. Other times, you’ll hear eerie singing, or something will scuttle across the floor, or a statue will turn its head. The whole game takes place at night and the music is beautiful, but grim. Combine all of these elements, and you get a genuinely creepy game.

The suspects all have intriguing backstories and memorable personalities. I was constantly guessing who might be the culprit. Sometimes it felt like all of them could have done it, and other times it didn’t feel like any of them could have done it. I found the reveal satisfying. And while the culprit is always the same, this Nancy Drew is unique in that it has three possible endings.

It’s hard to gauge the fun and difficulty of the puzzles, as that’s going to depend on the person playing. The longer I game, the more I’ve come to realize that everyone’s brain works differently, and what seems so easy for one person is next to impossible to solve for another. I did find the final puzzle very frustrating, due to the fact that it was just a more challenging version of one that I’d already completed. But if you need help figuring out what to do, you can consult the Task List that Nancy keeps with her. In Amateur Detective mode, you can also select hints that tell you how to complete the puzzles.

I’m so glad that I played Ghost of Thornton Hall. It had the same magic as the classic Nancy Drew titles and then some. Now I want to check out some of the other recent titles that I missed!

Review: MapleStory 2

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Developer: NSquare
Publisher: Nexon
Platform: PC

What’s it About?
MapleStory 2 is a free to play MMORPG. It was released in 2015 in Korea, but world wide on October 10th of this year. Anime-style characters can quest through and explore a 3D block world filled with monsters and adventure.

What did I think?
This game is adorable and addictive. I never played the original MapleStory, but I’m not sure if I even need to. The exposition is given to you in detail in the beginning. Two sisters – one good and one evil – keep balance in the universe. The Good sister created a world, however, that was filled with nothing but goodness. The Evil sister feared that the universe would become unbalanced, so she fought her sister. Both sisters died and both good and evil now reside in the world.

Everything about this game is adorable. From the chibi anime characters to the cute little monsters and the 3D block-like world. The colors are bright and happy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a kick-ass dark assassin.

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The game mechanics are interesting. It has controller support, but you can’t just use a controller. For example, in any menu, you have to use your mouse. You can use your gamepad to move around, fight and talk to people, but the second you open a menu, you have to switch to your mouse. I’m not a fan of this aspect of it. Either have it be controller all the way or no controller at all.

I can’t speak too much about the story, as I’m not too terribly far into it yet. I’m also not sure if the story is slightly different depending on which class you choose. I decided to start with the Runeblade class, which is kind of like magical melee. I rather enjoy the combat in it. It’s fluid and my special attacks are very powerful and easy to use with low cooldown times.

There’s also a skill point and attribute system that a lot of open world RPGs tend to have now-a-days. This allows you to customize your toon to be just how you want them to be. Do you want a high strength melee fighter, you can do that, just focus your attribute points in strength. Nothing is pre-set, which I love.

Finally, there are also super fun mini-games! These I haven’t yet had the chance to play myself, but I’ve seen some gameplay of them. I’m excited to play some and I’ll be sure to update as I do!

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Do I recommend it?
Yes, definitely. It’s a free to play MMORPG with a compelling story and super adorable graphics. What’s not to love? Go download it and let me know what you think in the comments below!

Review: Ring of Elysium

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Developer: Tancent Games
Publisher: Tancent Games
Platform: PC

What’s it about?
Ring of Elysium is a multiplayer battle royale game. With graphics closer to PUBG than Fortnite, this action packed battle royale certainly keeps you on your toes. Sixty people are trapped on a mountain and must avoid the massive snowstorm, Ymir. The objective is to get to the rescue flight, which can save up to 4 people.

What did I think?
The game itself runs very smoothly. There was no lag, no glitches that I came across. I would have liked the chance to learn what my controls were before being thrown into a match. I know that other battle royales do the same thing, but it’s frustrating when you don’t know what you’re doing and are killed within seconds.

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Like PUBG, you can drive a car or a boat to get to your destination faster. These are loud, however, and can be heard from very far away. I did have an opportunity to snipe someone driving in a car, but I didn’t know the controls and they passed by without me so much as firing a shot.

The customization was pretty cool, though extremely limited. You can go in and change your facial features, but mostly everything is preset. My biggest issue was the lack of diversity. You can only be an Asian man or Asian woman. This being an Asian game in early access, I understand why that’s the case, but I hope that they add more to this as they get closer to a full release.

The ambiance is rather jarring to me. The game itself is very quiet. The only sounds around are natural sounds, like wind blowing and leaves rustling. You can hear people walking if you’re in the same building as them, which is pretty cool. I actually got a kill because of this (which is more than I can say for any of the other battle royales I’ve played). The gunshots are loud, though. So loud that they gave me anxiety. I’m sure I can mess with the sound options, but my chest is still a little tight.

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Do I recommend it?
If you’re into battle royales, definitely check this game out. It’s free to play on steam, and it is currently only available in North America and Asia. If your anxiety is triggered by loud noises or gunshots, I highly recommend you let this one pass or tweak the sound settings to make it not so jarring.

Review: Visage

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Developer: SadSquare Studio
Publisher: SadSquare Studio
Platform: PC, Xbox One, PS4
Early Access Release: 10/2/2018
Expected Full Release: 2/2019

What’s it about?
Visage is an indie psychological horror game from SadSquare Studio. Funded by Kickstarter and Steam Greenlight, Visage is one of the many spiritual successors to Silent Hills P.T. 

Visage can be considered a haunted house game. You are exploring a rather old and large house, attempting to uncover the terrible things that have happened there. As the game is in early access, there is only one chapter available thus far.

What did I think?
After playing through the demo, which is currently available on steam, I can tell you that Visage is a phenomenal game so far. You can certainly tell that the developers have put a lot into this game and have used their Kickstarter funds wisely.

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This game gets intense very quickly. The opening scene can be triggering for some, so proceed with caution. After the jarring beginning, you find yourself in a giant house with almost no direction. You’re meant to explore, to find your own way, however there are tutorials on how to use necessary items.

Visage takes an excellent approach on managing your character’s sanity. You can do one of two things to keep yourself from going insane: take pills or stand in well lit places. The pills are easier to find than well lit places. You also have to find lighters, candles and lightbulbs to help manage your sanity levels.

The story of the first “Visage” is compelling, terrifying and sad. You are uncovering the story of the brutal death of a young girl without a jaw. But you need to be quick about it, or else she’ll kill you for snooping. Your only sign that she’s anywhere near you is her labored breathing.

There are some jump scares in the game, but my favorite thing about Visage are the fake outs. You can hear something and be absolutely certain that it’s right there, just inside the next room. You have no choice but to go in there, terrified. And, when you do, the noise stops and you’re alone. I love the build up of suspense, especially when it doesn’t end in a jump scare.

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Do I recommend it?
Oh, yes, I very much do. Visage is the first horror game to actually frighten me in years. It didn’t just make me jump or feel tense, it actually lingered with me long after I finished playing. I can’t wait to see what the final game looks like. For now, though, check it out on Steam and tell me what you think in the comments below!

Recap Review: The American Girls Premiere

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One lovely summer day, my parents were summoned to the basement for the world premiere of my very first play created on the computer.

This one-woman show invoked the minimalist style, in the sense that almost nothing actually happened. Its protagonist, Felicity Merriman from the American Girl franchise, crossed the stage and recited a brief soliloquy in robotic monotone: “Hello. My name is Felicity.” Then she curtseyed and walked off the stage.

…well, I thought it was a work of genius at the time. And it was the start of many more bizarre plays starring the American Girl characters.

For those unfamiliar with it, the American Girl franchise started out as a doll collection. Each doll was based on a fictional nine-year-old girl living in a specific period in American history. Around the time that the franchise caught my interest, there were six of them: Felicity, living in Colonial Williamsburg just before the Revolutionary War, Josefina, living in New Mexico before it became a U.S. territory, Kirsten, a Swedish immigrant, Addy, a slave who escapes to Philadelphia with her mother, Samantha, an orphan who lives with her wealthy, old-fashioned grandmother in 1904, and Molly, whose father is a doctor overseas during World War II.

The dolls each had six books that described their misadventures with family and friends and showed how important historical events had an impact on their lives. I loved reading them as a kid. I also loved staring longingly at the many, many accessories and clothing that you could purchase for the dolls in the American Girl Catalog, most of which I couldn’t get because they were just too expensive.

And then came an odd but kinda amazing addition to the franchise: The American Girls Premiere.

The American Girls Premiere was a computer game for Windows and Mac, where you could create your own plays using the characters from the American Girl stories. It gave you numerous tools to work with: characters, setting, props, music, sound effects, lighting, and actions.

Unfortunately, it did have one big limit, story-wise: you couldn’t create an epic crossover starring Felicity from 1774 and Molly from 1944, or Josefina from 1824 going on adventures with Addy from 1864. Once you picked one of the girls, you became confined to her time period, her settings, and her supporting cast.

I’m guessing that the company didn’t want girls coming up with plays that were too wacky, but in hindsight, they might as well have let us go wild.

The most memorable part of the game was the horrific, computerized voices that you got to use to make the “actors” say their dialogue. Technically, the game also provided a voice recording option if you had a microphone with your computer. I didn’t, so I could never get that feature to work and had to rely on the voices given to me.

The results? Well, you can watch this masterpiece of a play to get an idea of what they sounded like:

I couldn’t find many videos of people’s American Girls Premiere plays anymore (and I suspect some of them were removed for copyright infringement), but “Meet Robot Felicity” is a perfect representation of how these productions often looked and sounded, and then some. You could indeed make characters soar through the air or burrow underground.

Although the game came with a basic tutorial, I ended up uncovering most of the ins and outs myself. It offered me an opportunity to mess around and see how far I could go when putting together a play. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, it also offered a learning opportunity in how to create something with limitations. Need to show the character sleeping in a bed instead of lying on the floor? Levitate him or her so that he or she would appear to be lying on top of the bed. The computer can’t pronounce the lines correctly? Well, time to deliberately misspell the words so it would.

The American Girls Premiere wasn’t perfect, but it offered many, many hours of fun.  It served as a nice introduction to the different elements in creating a play: having the right props, the right lighting, etc.  The silly robot voices added some unintentional humor to the whole experience.  I’m glad it existed and I miss playing it.

Review: To The Moon

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You may or may not know this, dear reader, but part of the VanriTheRogue persona is the fact that I don’t have emotions. At least, I don’t have strong ones.

In an effort to see my emotions, a long time viewer decided to take matters into his own hands. Randomly one day, I received a gift on steam. One of my friends and our long time viewer, Plottrig, had sent me a story-heavy indie game called To The Moon. He wanted me to play it on stream, so that I could feel the feels.

What’s it about?
To The Moon follows two scientists who work for a company that grants dying wishes to dying patients, for a price. The game begins with the scientists arriving at the house of their patient. We meet his caretaker and her two brat children. We find out that the patient is in a coma upstairs and his final wish is to go to the moon. The scientists set up their equipment and prepare to enter the patient’s mind. Their plan is to rewire his memories so that he thinks he’s gone to the moon.

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What did I think?
The game doesn’t have much gameplay to it. You walk around a bit, find things that are important to the patient as memory points, and solve small puzzles to jump from memory to memory. It’s in the retro, 8-bit style that I love so much. The detail in the artwork is amazing, I wish I could have explored more.

The story itself is powerful and sucks you right in. I completed the whole game in one sitting because I just couldn’t bring myself to exit out of it. There’s no voice acting, but the soundtrack creates the perfect atmosphere for a story as heartbreaking and heartwarming as To The Moon’s.

The only problem with games like these – not just this one, but all of them – is that there’s no replayability. The story is the same every time. The items and the puzzles are the same every time. If you go through it once, you could go through it a hundred times. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, but I do like my choices games and my multiple endings.

Do I recommend it?
Yes. I recommend you go and buy it right now. Play through it and feel the feels that I felt… and showed… on stream. (I’M NOT CRYING, YOU’RE CRYING!) Go and be as scared about the outcome as I was. Go and experience the amazingness that is To The Moon.

Thank you, Plottrig!