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Games to Get Excited About: August 2017

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August is looking to be a much better month for game releases with more than 25 games coming out, including Ark, Uncharted, and another Life is Strange title.

There’s a good mix of console and PC releases, and Nintendo continues to slowly add to the Switch library.  A few are continuations of popular franchises, and a couple are re-releases of games we’ve had for awhile, so it’s a mixed bag of new, almost new, and official releases of games we’ve already been playing.

It’s looking like a good month, but a difficult one to pick out a title despite the selection.  Ark is certainly a contender for most exciting release, but unfortunately my experience with it has been hit or miss.  Various bugs, memory leaks, and now unable to even join a server due to a strange error after the last patch has worn down my pleasure with the game.  Then there’s a lot of sports and racing games that just aren’t my cup of tea.  I’d be excited for the Pillars of Eternity Complete Edition release, if I owned a PS4 or XBox, but that’s one I’m sure a few are looking forward to.

That leaves me with one game I’m sort of excited about, even though I haven’t played the original series.  Thankfully, this is a prequel, so I might pick it up to play before going back to the first series.  Life is Strange: Before the Storm Episode 1 comes to us on August 31st and will tell the story of Chloe Price three years before the original game’s story line.  Chloe forms a bond with Rachel Amber, and together they help solve the mystery of Rachel’s family.  Some of the game mechanics have changed, most notably the removal of time travel.  Chloe will instead have a conversation feature called Backtalk that will allow you to manipulate characters in the story.

Why Should we Be Excited?

Obviously, this is a popular series, and a lot of gamers are going to be excited to jump into this world again.  For those of us who have not yet played the first, this could be a good place to hop on the train.  As a prequel one can step into the story without having to know the previous games.  If we enjoy it then we can pick up the first series and continue the story chronologically.  We’re also going to see an added episode covering a character named Max Caulfield, expanding the world’s lore even further.

Whether you’re jumping in to start here, or continuing the story of Chloe in a way, it should turn out to be a good release for August.  I’m seriously considering adding it to my list.  Maybe it will change my mind about this type of game.

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Notable Releases for August

Ark: Survival Evolved – The official release for a game long in early-access comes to us on August 8th.  It’s unclear if the bugs that have plagued it recently have been cleared up, but we’ll see early in the month.  Here’s to more dinosaur taming fun.  The release is for all systems.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice – Also releasing on the 8th for Windows and PS4 is a action game from Ninja Theory, who are touting it as an “Independent AAA” game.  The story works with Norse and Celtic mythology and takes place in the underworld.

Sonic Mania – Sonic rolls into all systems on the 15th as a classic side-scrolling game that the franchise is known for.  The game received a good deal of acclaim at E3 and gamers are excited to return to the feel of what made Sonic a hit.

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy – Dropping on the 22nd this installment follows the story of Chloe Frazer, and stands alone as its own story in the world of Uncharted.  Beside the new characters the game will be much like others in the franchise, incorporating combat and platform play in third-person.

Hello Neighbor – A strange release hits the market on the 29th.  This stealth game has the player attempting to enter his neighbor’s house without getting caught.  The neighbor sets traps while you try to break and enter. Interesting, but odd concept.

 

Year in Review: Games I Played in 2016

By: Iris the Keyblade Master

Hi everyone!  I’m Iris and this is my first game review for Real Women of Gaming!

This past year, I tried to expand my horizons a little bit and play more video games that didn’t have “Kingdom Hearts,” “Legend of Zelda,” or “Final Fantasy” in the title.  And by that, I mean that I played three games that didn’t have those words in the title.  Considering how often I play Kingdom Hearts, I’m going to call that “progress.”

So these are some of the games I finished in one form or another in 2016:

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

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This is a game that I’ve played on and off for years.  Finally, I managed to beat it during a blizzard this past winter.  It’s known for being such an unusual game because it forces you to go back and replay the same three days over and over again, until you have everything you need to save the world.  Link, the hero, gets stuck in a parallel dimension called Termina that’s about to be destroyed by a possessed kid in a mask.  You defeat him by collecting masks of your own that give you all kinds of powers.  Also, by replaying the same series of events over and over, Link gets to know all of the side characters in the story the way you wouldn’t in another game.

But the element that drew me into Majora’s Mask was the soundtrack.  After hearing an amazing fan remix of “Stone Tower Temple,” I just had to play it.  It didn’t let me down: from the Song of Healing, to Oath to Order, to Majora’s Theme, to Stone Tower and the Deku Scrub Palace, this game’s music is haunting and beautiful.  So on that note, I also recommend checking out Theophany’s “Time’s End” albums.  They’re incredible.

Life Is Strange

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This is the other time travel game that I played this year.  It was very different, but no less good.

Life Is Strange stars a high school senior named Max Caulfield, who transfers back to her former hometown to study photography at Blackwell Academy.  One day, out of the blue, she discovers that she has the power to control time.  This allows her to stop her former best friend from getting shot, and thus begins a very dark, character-driven plot to figure out Max’s new power and why a girl in town went missing.

This is like an adult indie movie meets the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series.  Often you get to pick how Max responds to the people she meets, which changes the course of the story.  If you don’t like how something turned out, you can send Max back in time to try something else.  However, the power is limited.  Once you leave an area, you can’t change your past decisions.  So get ready to feel paranoid as the game reminds you that “THIS ACTION WILL HAVE CONSEQUENCES!”

The best part of this game is the cast of characters.  First of all, there are a ton of well-written female characters and the entire game centers around the complicated relationship between Max and Chloe.  Additionally, most of the characters grow and change in some way, or at least show a side that you didn’t see before if you allow Max to interact with them over the course of the story.

However, I do need to point out that the game has some extremely trigger-worthy plot lines.  These include suicide, drugging and assaulting women, domestic abuse between Chloe and her stepfather, and major character deaths that you can’t always prevent.  So, please tread with caution if you decide to play it.  It’s a highly emotional experience, but I’m glad I played it.

Kingdom Hearts: Unchained X

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Kingdom Hearts was the series that turned me into a gamer, so it makes sense that it would be the same series that got me interested in mobile games.  One of the best parts about Unchained X is that you don’t need to play the rest of the series to enjoy it, unlike a majority of the other entries.

In this entry, you create your own character who lives in Daybreak Town with a cute cat creature named Chirthy.  Chirthy guides you through different Disney worlds, helping people with their problems.  But gradually, your character will get sucked into events that lead to the legendary Keyblade War that’s discussed in the main series.  It’s simple to play and there’s lots to do in addition to the main story quest.  Definitely try it out if you’re a Kingdom Hearts fan!

Secrets Can Kill

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If you grew up reading about Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, but you haven’t played the computer games yet, you’re missing out on a lot of fun!  (Not to mention another great series with a positive female character as the star!)  I played the remake of the first game, Secrets Can Kill, and enjoyed it for the most part.

Nancy goes undercover to find out why a high school student was murdered.  You have to question suspects, figure out complicated puzzles, and escape the occasional trap to catch the murderer.  It’s not my favorite entry and it’s really short.  Nonetheless, it’s a solid game so I recommend giving it a try.

Final Fantasy VII

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Yeah.  The Big One.  One of the most well-known classics in video game history.  Like Majora’s Mask, I played this one on and off for years, and this was the year I finally beat Sephiroth!  AW YEAH!

As you probably know, Final Fantasy VII came out for the PlayStation in 1997, so it hasn’t aged well in the graphics department.  But the story and gameplay make up for it.  I first came to know the characters through Kingdom Hearts, and then one of my friends sent me a video from a walkthrough that covered Cloud’s attempt to rescue Tifa by crossdressing.  All I could think was, “I have NO idea what’s happening right now, but I have GOT to find out.  Where’s the rest of this game?”

And the rest of the game turned out to be just as entertaining.  If you haven’t at least tried it yet, do so.

Bioshock

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I don’t usually play first-person shooters at all, but after receiving encouragement from a friend, decided to give it a try.  Now, I’m not a fan of the horror genre any more than I’m a fan of first-person shooters.  And to top it off, I had to play this game mostly at night so it wouldn’t bother the rest of the family (because why subject them to the Splicers’ ramblings too?).  But once I started, I could not stop playing.

You play a mostly silent protagonist, Jack, who gets stuck in an underwater city after a plane crash.  It’s been overrun by the Splicers, zombie-like people who are out to kill anything that moves.  Only a few survivors are left, and most of them aren’t friendly either.  You’ve got to navigate the city to find a way to escape.

It’s the atmosphere that makes this game so amazing and terrifying.  The city of Rapture is dark, gloomy, and falling apart at the seams, even without the Splicers.  You usually hear them rambling threats before you actually see them, and they look pretty scary too.  And while it’s a science-fiction game, the way that the city fell apart feels sadly realistic.  You learn more about the backstory through audio recordings that they left scattered in different areas.

So, what games did you play this past year?  What are you hoping to play in 2017?

Review: Gone Home (2013)

Dev./Pub.: The Fullbright Company
Platform(s): PC, Mac, PS4, Xbox One
Release Date: Aug. 15, 2013

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Gone Home is a visual novel that focuses on exploration. According to the Steam store page, this game does not have any enemies or puzzles that must be completed to beat the game. The player simply must explore the house until they learn the whole story.

What’s it about?
You are Katie Greenbriar. You return home after a long trip abroad in Europe to find a note from your younger sister, Sam, instructing you not to go looking for her. It is your goal to explore the house to find out what happened to your family through notes, letters, books and pamphlets. The game ends when you learn the whole truth about what happened while you were abroad.

What did I think?
This game is beautiful. Not only are the graphics amazingly detailed, but the gameplay is flawless. As Katie, you are able to see and interact with every nook and cranny in this mansion that is your family’s new home, including messy beds and strewn about clothing.

The story is a powerful one. You learn early on that the house, which used to belong to Katie’s great-uncle, is referred to in town as the Psycho House because the previous owner went crazy and killed himself. The ambiance screams horror game as a thunderstorm rages outside and the old house creaks as you explore. Despite all this, my favorite part about this game is that it’s not horror at all. The devs could have fooled me.

There is a lot of reading to do, but what else can you expect from an exploration game that focuses on finding notes? The journal entries from Sam, written as letters to Katie and voiced out loud, are a nice touch. They pace the story quite well so that you are able to explore the entire house before you know exactly what happened.

The game overall reminded me of Life is Strange, which, I think, is a compliment.

Do I recommend it?
Yes, I definitely do. If you have a PS4, it’s the free PS Plus game for June. Otherwise, you can find it on Steam and Xbox One.