Category Archives: First Impressions

Refunct – A Review

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Refunct is a nifty little interactive experience by Dominique Grieshofer. The style and controls call to mind the Pure Time Trials DLC from the original Mirror’s Edge.

This is a game that very short but can be very thought provoking. It’s a very relaxing and soothing atmosphere with some nice music you can just kinda chill to.

The premise? You run around and hit buttons and collect cubes while all the platforms you step on get colored. Sounds dumb, I know. However, it’s presented in a way that isn’t overly challenging and it just… Is. It never promises to be anything more or less than what it is.

The controls are very responsive, the music is great and visuals are very pleasing. Replay allows you to beat your previous run times and paint the ground with a new color each time.

In the end, this is a game that can last 3-60 minutes each run. You’re painting a picture. Of what, I will not say. That’s part of the experience. In fact, you might say it’s the entire experience, as you are painting your own experience with each platform.

This game is only $3 and is available on Steam (Win, Mac and Linux) and Xbox One. Currently, it’s on sale on the X1 for $1.50 for another 8 days. It’s also worth noting that on Steam it’s overall and current ratings are “Overwhelmingly Positive” with a total of 4,730 reviews and on the X1 it’s rated 4.5/5 stars.

Refunct allows you to take a look into yourself in a way most others don’t. It allows you to Refunct Your Heart.

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The Dwarves – A Book’s First Impressions!

I started reading The Dwarves by Markus Heitz last week in my spare time at work. I’ve had my eye on the game since it launched on Kickstarter, and wanted to find out the story behind the game. The book is 730 pages long, or, for a frame of reference, the same length as Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

In just a week, I’ve gotten to just shy of 1/4 of the way through. Also keep in mind, I get about an hour a day to read, at most. The Dwarves starts us off 1,035 year in the past in the 5,199th Solar Cycle. It is here that the catalyst for the events of the book are to happen. We follow the Dwarves of the Fifthling Kingdom as they make their final stand against the Perished Lands.
The Dwarves of the Fifthling Kingdom have always stood watch against the hoards to the north, but a disease has wiped out most of them. A strange curse comes from the North with the invaders. When a Dwarf falls, he is brought back, soulless, and fighting against his kin.
As more fall, the gates that have remained closed since the dawn of time, open for the first time, allowing the invaders access to all of Girdlegard.

We then jump to the 6,234th Solar Cycle, where we meet our hero, Tungdil Bolofar. He’s a Blacksmith. A Dwarf that is living in a kingdom of men. He has never met another Dwarf. After a series of events, Tungdil gets sent out on a journey, his first quest. Which is good, because he yearns for adventure, and the possibility of meeting another Dwarf.

Along his way, he meets some kind strangers, but also gets thrown into bad situations, including being forced to sneak out of an Orc encampment, getting his leg caught in a wolf trap, and other hang-ups.
Tungdil has never fought. He was raised as a Blacksmith and scholar. Where I stopped, Tungdil had just killed his first Orc, and is about to take on another.

The further I read, the more I look forward to playing the game that just released based on this novel. I’m only on page 177, and I would highly recommend picking up The Dwarves by Markus Heitz.

If you are interested: http://www.dwarves-game.com/

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ABZÛ – First Impressions & Wrap-Up!

This post will contain spoilers near the end. I will mark them so readers who want to experience this journey for themselves can stop reading.

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ABZÛ comes to us from the art director of the renown games, Flower and Journey. For those that aren’t familiar with those titles, Flower made use of the Six-axis on the PS3, as you played as a flower petal, moving along the wind to bring life to the world. A gorgeous and relaxing title with an amazing score. Journey saw us in a multiplayer setting, in which we are in a desert, and making a journey to a fallen star on a mountain top.

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A scene in Flower depicting the movement on the breeze.

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A scene in Journey depicting one of the many “sand-surfing” segments with your final destination in the background.

ABZÛ means “Ocean of Wisdom” and plays off its meaning very well. You begin as a lone diver, apparently stranded in the water. The opening scene of James Cameron’s Sanctum comes to mind. You awake and begin to explore the ocean. You can breach the surface, hold on to larger fish, find meditation statues, secret pools of fish, hidden seashells, and just generally enjoy a beautiful view of the ocean.

The controls took a bit of getting used to, but once you learn the little hidden things you can do, such as boosting, you can move around quicker and just have a lot of fun swimming around.

This game is short, but I would recommend picking it up for fans of Flower and/or Journey, or fans of scuba diving or the oceans. Normally it’s $19.99 USD, but right now it’s on sale for the Xbox One for $16.99 USD.

 

 

~~HEAVY SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT! IF YOU DO NOT WANT SPOILERS, PLEASE STOP READING!~~

 

 

Alright, so while playing ABZÛ, I was so confused. I knew there were going to be ruins of an ancient city. What I didn’t expect was the utilization of underwater rivers in a technological standing to open doors. I started thinking, I must be in Atlantis. This was further pushed into my mind by giant mechanical doors.

That’s when I started to notice something in the murals. People looking just like the diver teaching people who looked slightly different. I started to think, alien race. Now, modern tech is modeled after them.

The further I pushed, the more my suspicions were confirmed. You find a destroyed upside-down mechanical pyramid. You watch as it creates machinations. That’s when you discover that you might be a robot. That gets confirmed shortly thereafter. Eventually you go to destroy the machinations and return life to the ocean.

Finishing ABZÛ, I have a lot of theories. The primary being that you were a mechanized race, come to show people technology and how to utilize the soul of the ocean. Something went wrong. Either they rebelled, or a catastrophe happened. I think it WAS Atlantis based on technologies and buildings you see, especially an entire city (looking like Jules Verne’s Atlantis from Journey to the Center of the Earth).

I also think that, seeing what happened to the ocean, you make amends by giving parts of your own technologically advanced soul, to bring life back to the area. To repair what your race damaged.

If you’ve played it, what are your thoughts? Theories?

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Keep Your Eyes On That Horizon – A Firewatch Review

maxresdefaultFirewatch is a story-driven game by developer Campo Santo. People call it a walking simulator, and, while that’s true, it’s more about the personal development of your character, Henry, and his relationship with his boss, Delilah. The writing and dialogue in Firewatch tops the list for Walking Simulators for me.

Firewatch released on PC and PS4 in February, and just released on the 21st of September for Xbox One in NA and will release on the 30th of September for Xbox One in EU.

Firewatch starts us with simple text on a screen. Through this text we explore the background of Henry and a woman named Julia. I won’t spoil anything about the back-story here, but it reminds me a lot of the beginning to the movie ‘Up’. The text sequences are broken up by Henry going to his first day on the job, which includes him getting into his truck, starting on the trail, walking the trail and getting to his post. These are nice sequences that give you a feel for your environment and where you’ll be during the course of the game.

It’s the summer of 1989 in the Shoshone National Forest. Henry is here for the whole summer as a Firewatchman. His first few days are pretty eventful as he learns the ropes, chats with Delilah and has other events occur that will begin to shape his summer. What you say to Delilah will begin to shape the tone of the relationship they have.

You progress through a few consecutive days, before finally getting a peaceful summer, at which point, the day count jumps up by a month. You play through sporadic days as events begin to occur, including a large forest fire (which you get the honor of naming), missing persons, and even a mystery that revolves around Henry and Delilah.

The conversations in Firewatch feel more real and genuine than most games in recent memory. Personality, feeling and emotion are put into the dialogue, which truly makes you feel like you are experiencing life through the eyes of a man named Henry.

This story allows you to be comedic, serious, scared, comforting, accusatory, questioning, and various other things, all through what you choose to say to Delilah. There’s no action in this game, so don’t expect to fight wildlife, however it offers a gorgeous location in the Shoshone National Forest, a wonderfully written story with real characters, choice, exploration and an unforgettable, one-of-a-kind experience with a realistic ending for Henry and Delilah based on their backstories and lives.

Firewatch is $19.99 and worth every penny, even if a once-through will only be about 4 hours, I’ve already gotten 8 hours worth of enjoyment, and plan on many more to come.

A good way to look at this, is if you paid $6/hour for every game (standard movie tickets are about this much depending on length and your location), this game would cost $24 for a once-through. $19.99 is a great price, but never fear, as sales are sure to be ahead with Black Friday and Christmas around the corner!

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Divinity: Original Sin – Enhanced Edition. All the fun of a tabletop RPG without all the erasing!

I’m a huge fan of Tabletop RPG’s, in fact, I play Pathfinder regularly. Divinity: Original Sin – Enhanced Edition is the prequel to the original Divinity, which has a sequel, Divinity II – Ego Draconis/The Dragon Knight Saga. While I never played the original (or spinoffs) I played both versions of Divinity II, totaling ~200 hours of my life. Pro-tip: If you own Ego Draconis, your save does NOT carry over to TDKS as they have different coding. That’s due to Atlus buying the title and re-releasing it as TDKS.

Divinity II is an RPG style of gameplay by modern standards. Third person rear-view, run around, open combat, etc. Original Sin (the most recent… Read All I’m a huge fan of Tabletop RPG’s, in fact, I play Pathfinder regularly. Divinity: Original Sin – Enhanced Edition is the prequel to the original Divinity, which has a sequel, Divinity II – Ego Draconis/The Dragon Knight Saga. While I never played the original (or spinoffs) I played both versions of Divinity II, totaling ~200 hours of my life. Pro-tip: If you own Ego Draconis, your save does NOT carry over to TDKS as they have different coding. That’s due to Atlus buying the title and re-releasing it as TDKS.

Divinity II is an RPG style of gameplay by modern standards. Third person rear-view, run around, open combat, etc. Original Sin (the most recent installment) plays out like a Pathfinder or D&D game. It’s actually really tough, even on easy, which I feel is on purpose. That’s how a good Pathfinder/D&D game goes. Everything is turn/round based as you would expect, based on initiative ratings. There are saving throws (automatic) skills, perks, base stats, feats, etc.

You start off with two characters, which you can customize. However, pick your class before customizing skills/stats or they get reset and you have to do it over. You can even choose the AI Personality, which chooses how they act during conversations and decisions, as well as how they will react to what you do/say. You can also choose “No Personality” to manually choose how they will react to every situation, sometimes leading to a mini-game to decide who will win the argument. It’s Rock, Paper, Scissors. You can switch between your party members at any time, and even separate the group to deal with traps.

You can have up to 4 members in your party, and honestly it can get to be a bit much. The good news is, you can play solo, couch-co-op or online co-op. That takes some of the burden off. Each of you then takes control of the main characters (leading to some interesting experiences), and can control either of the other party members at will. This also makes splitting the loot more interesting.

I got this game on an amazing deal on the Xbox One at 74% off. I would have been willing to pay the full price for this game. It truly does an amazing job of giving you the pencil & paper experience without the need for erasing and getting new sheets. The only other thing, is so far, you don’t get the full 100% freedom of say, choosing a killer out of 3 suspects, you have to investigate to find the 100% without-a-doubt killer. That could also be a DM decision, where the Guard Captain wouldn’t believe you without irrefutable proof. I also understand that this isn’t meant to have the freedom of Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishment, so I’m not really upset about it.

Anyone who has ever enjoyed pencil & paper RPG’s should pick this up. It’s got a 60+ hour campaign and is worth every penny.

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[Spoilers] The Solus Project: Game Preview – First Impressions! (Part Two)

Disclaimer: I apologize for the disarray of this post. It’s been awhile since I played the updated Preview, so please bear with me. I am doing my best to recount the events.

 

Welcome back to Gliese-6143-C, or, Galea.

We start off exploring a massive cave system. Here we see more eggs and even larger eggs. We learn about something that is like living smoke that shoots spikes out like a porcupine. They hate light and heat and will attack you if you have either out. The smoke creatures terrify me and kept me from exploring a section, because one glitched in a doorway.

We saw super creepy nightmarish dolls that follow you around and giggle like evil little minions trying to kill you. Honestly, it’s almost like they just want to play. Here we find out what The Sky Ones did to the people, and even the children. Forcing them in a room and then killing them. I’m beginning to think that The Sky Ones were going planet to planet “saving” people to harvest as food/energy for the planet/themselves. It’s almost as if they put the children’s souls into the dolls..

After the nightmarish hellscape that is the cave system, we finally make it outside to a new island. The island we travel to in this part of the preview, reminds me a bit of the Island from Lost. There is a giant foot from a statue and various structures lying around. There is also a giant structure we find that acts as a lightning rod. It ends up powering the entire island, and activates massive heaters that make you a nice and “cozy” 257 degrees. When activated, metal orbs fall from the sky and follow you like cameras.

As we make our way back to the massive cave system there are lots of areas to explore. We even find Varsa’s tomb, one of the humanoids who has always questioned the Sky One’s purpose. I thought the living being we’re following was Varsa. Maybe overthrew A’daar Suum, leader of the Sky Ones, during an uprising, of which you find heavy evidence. It turns out Varsa was killed in the uprising. This makes me terrified that we are actually following A’daar Suum himself. If that’s the case, we could be in very deep trouble. Whoever they are, they are clearly leading us somewhere.

We make our way back to the second Island where we found fellow astronaut Yuri dead in a cave. As we walk back in that direction, we now see his body strung up on metal posts like a trophy/warning. This all comes seconds before a U.F.O. flies very close overhead, scanning the area. It flies back and forth and I’m assuming it’s looking us. It eventually flies off, but then a giant orb lowers down from the sky. It leads us back into an earlier cave where a door was previously blocked by ice. The door is open thanks to the heat being turned on, but this is where the second part ends. We should be seeing the next part within the next 2 weeks.

I have questions that are burning away and I have no answers, yet. What is the purpose of the Living Smoke? As far as we know, they are created, and kill. That’s it. There must be a reason for them beyond causing havoc. My theory is that it has to be a way to harness energy/food based on the murals and writings.

It honestly feels like the next update will be the finale, even though we’re only about 1/4 of the way through right now. The way the second part ended just throws a lot at you, and I feel like it’s about to get a lot more dangerous for us.

I have to give major kudos and props to the team. The atmosphere, visuals, concept, sound, etc., all of it just keeps getting better and better.

I’m honestly beginning to get terrified of this place. I feel like I’m actually on Galea, and I want the nightmare to be over. I just want to go home..

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[Spoilers] The Solus Project: Game Preview – First Impressions! (Part One)

This will be the first part of a multi-part review.

Now, I played the Trial of The Solus Project, and it’s officially become the first Game Preview I’ve bought in to. These reviews may contain heavy spoilers, so please do not read any further if you wish to keep things a surprise.

The Solus project starts off mentioning that, essentially, Earth has been destroyed. Multiple ships left Earth with the remnants of Humanity, seeking a new planet to call home. You are on one of those ships, orbiting the planet you are going to call home. The first ‘holy crap’ moment comes when a ball of energy comes up from the planet and hits your ship, causing it to explode. You then fall to the planet in an escape pod.

As you wake up and begin to wander around this strange planet, debris falling from the sky, the real game begins. Survival. In a world where the environment is your enemy, you must not only seek shelter from storms and for sleep, but brave the freezing nights, blistering days, and natural disasters. You also need to brave hunger and thirst, hypothermia, heat exhaustion and soon (speculation), animal life.

This is a Survival game, yes, but it’s also an exploration/story based game. Your ultimate goal is to survive long enough to contact command and tell them your findings and report what happened. You slowly begin to discover that you were not the first life forms on this planet. Other humanoids were brought here long ago by an alien race that lived underground on this planet.
It was at this point that I started to suspect that someone or something might still be alive. As I explored the gorgeous landscapes, rolling hills, cliffs, oceans.. The deep, dark, frigid caves, I discovered evidence of life. Primarily something that stopped me dead in my tracks. I found eggs. Giant eggs. A few of them had already hatched, but there were plenty that weren’t. Keep in mind that I was also exploring a strange sound emanating from deep within this cave system.

The sound design in this game is phenomenal. When outside, you can hear the waves crashing, the wind blowing, the thunder clap. At a specific event, you can almost even feel the energy come alive in the air around you. Vocals sound as if you’re out in an open area. When you enter a cave, the vocals echo off the walls. Truly an extra step above the rest. The music is amazing. At one point, there was a tornado during a snowstorm. I honestly felt like Dorothy trying to get away with the music. It truly made me fear for my life.
First it was snowing, then my PDA lovingly named Wilson, told me of a detected anomaly. Now, based on the fact that I survived a meteor shower, I figured it might be a blizzard. I was wrong. As the tornado grew closer, I felt more desperate. I was collecting scrap metal and couldn’t make it back up the hill to shelter in time. Long story short, I wasn’t as lucky as Dorothy.. Needless to say, I’m now terrified of being out in any storm in The Solus Project. The planet is trying to kill me.

Now, one of the most heart wrenching moments for me, was when you discover notes from a fellow crash survivor, and he mentions that he saw a light on a neighboring island. He attempted to signal, but got no response. He thinks maybe the other person didn’t see the signal, or maybe didn’t understand, but he would try every chance he got.
Then you discover that he broke his arm in the crash and then his leg exploring a cave. He didn’t have the medicine he needed to fight the infection and his biggest regret is he couldn’t be with his loved ones in his final moments.
You find him, what I can only assume, is a few hours after his death. His fire is still burning bright and his flashlight still has 97% battery. From the cans it looks as thought he had maybe 4 or 5 meals before he died.

This Solus Project tells an amazing story through exploration and discovery. The story of one Earth remnant survivor of an attack, the story of an ancient planet, an ancient humanoid race, and the Aliens that brought them there. The Game Preview currently ends as you discover an underground housing complex, and a humanoid being holding a staff with a light at the top, standing at the top of the complex, turning and walking away from you as you enter the area. I have a theory about who this being may be, and I feel it’s either the leader of the Alien Race who inhabited this planet, or it’s the humanoid whose firsthand accounts with encounters of the Leader are being found in tablet form, potentially by overthrowing the Alien Race.
Either way, I had the feeling it was not friendly, whatever, or whoever, it was.

The visuals in the game are very realistic, and very believable as being stranded on an alien, earth-like planet. The events that can happen, random or otherwise, are intense and make the environment seem alive, and even hostile, toward intruders. The environment is meticulously detailed, both outdoors and underground. The structures and landscape feel real and alive. Like there is breath flowing through, as if the planet is alive, and you are inside, feeling it wake from a slumber with a stale, ancient breath.
As I mentioned the sound design and composition are really one of a kind. The controls are a bit clunky at the moment, and a few things I would like to see changed or explained, but overall it’s very responsive and the control scheme works without issue.

The things I would like to see changed at the moment are: jumping, since you can’t jump very high or far, it would be nice to help get in and out of areas for exploration, that or allow the teleport disc to travel further. This could also all be explained by a higher gravity. Other than that, stairs are a big issue for me. They work as stairs should, and you have to step up each step, as it’s not a flat texture made to look like stairs, which is how it should be, but you can’t sprint up the stairs, and it slows you down immensely, even going down stairs can be a chore at times. That being said, those are honestly my only two complaints.

The Solus Project is an astoundingly great game. Everything about it has been done in meticulous detail. I can’t wait for the next section to be released next week. I will continue to post reviews about each section as I complete them.

My honest, no holds barred opinion: Get The Solus Project. At least get the Trail for free, and play through that. Also know that it gets even better past the end of the Trial. It isn’t for everyone, but I hate Survival games, and I’m in love with The Solus Project.

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