Injustice 2 review

Injustice 2 follows on from the Injustice Gods Among us story. This time seeing team Batman vs Team Superman call a break to take on a deadlier approaching foe, Brainiac. Injustice 2 brings a slew of new characters to the fold. The thrilling story continues were better graphics and battle styles. But does it have enough to keep you coming back?

Gameplay

What surprises you at first is that for a fighting game the Injustice series has done pretty well in terms of delivering an A class comic book story that is actually an interesting narrative that keeps you glued to the screen. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised when I checked the time and noticed that I had lost track of time because of how engaged in the story I was. Injustice 2 and NetherRealm once again deliver a beautiful and engaging fighting game, one that could see people like myself who aren’t usually into fighting games, suddenly finding themselves thinking twice thanks to a compelling story, which you don’t often see in fighting games.

Story aside Injustice 2 is an excellent fighting game brought to us once again from NetherRealm Studios, who are the team behind Mortal Kombat. Combat is fast and fun and depending on your expertise level when it comes to fighters, each character now also tailors to how players handle a fight. I found myself a fan of using both Green Arrow and Flash as I felt their combos were easier to perform. Green Lantern on the other hand came off as a bit more of a challenge for me. Combos are the key to winning here, which is especially so at the online front of the game. On several occasions, I would find myself in a match where I was way over my head, but more on the multiplayer section later. Matches are filled with other environmental objects to help you take down your opponent. You can also destroy the environment sending your opponent through walls or other objects which then takes you to a sub part of that arena to fight in. A lot of what was present in Gods Among Us has been kept around in terms of world destruction and set up.

Injustice 2 handles a lot like its predecessor in terms of gameplay mechanics. You still have your special ability of sorts that sees each character perform some sort of chain of attacks in a cutscene. These are performed after filling your super meter, which can also be drained when performing other combos. I have to say that I wish there was more than just the one cutscene/special ability per character. Grows old seeing the same thing repeatedly. Especially when you can perform a special ability twice in a match, it would be good just to see more variety is all.

Thankfully though when it comes to variety Injustice 2’s character customization section is fantastic. From special suit accessories to the colour of the suit, you can make your favourite character to play your very own for the multiplayer section. Injustice 2 now includes a microtransaction system for anyone who may be interested in paying real life money to collect character specific items quicker than grinding for them. Players can buy source crystals with their own money to purchase certain other items to change the look of your favourite fighters. These are of course optionable. You don’t need to spend money. These are just for the players that want get them sooner than later.

Multiplayer

This is where the game really opens up. I do advise completing the single player story first however as it helps you get a feel for each character and helps level them up and by completing each chapter you are rewarded mother boxes. Mother boxes contain items of clothing or appearances for each character. There are several types of mother boxes and each contains a certain level of rarity for special stat carrying clothes and weapons. They also have levels so don’t go thinking you can use an epic bow on Green Arrow when you’ve just started playing online. There’s some work to be done first. It pays to work hard as each new article of clothing or accessory that you unlock from a mother box can help increase a certain stat for your character. These stats help you when you go against other players of the same level. You are also able to customize your card with different art works., much like Call of Duty for example. You also display your win/loss record so try not to perform poorly or your friends may see how good or bad you really are.

Graphics and Sound

Injustice 2 is a gorgeous game and the character designs are more stunning than its predecessor, including the world designs and clever use of arena objects that can be used as weapons. A lot of love has been put into the attention to detail here and it shows in every scene during the story and other offline and online fights. Injustice 2 has also some impressive voice actors. The great Kevin Conroy is back to voice as Batman which is always a treat to hear, as well as several DC voice actor veterans. While not getting into the story but as someone who reads the Injustice comics as well it was awesome to see it play out on screen and once again as it was beautifully presented.

Overall

Injustice 2 is a fantastic sequel to a much-loved universe. Another fantastic story is told while exceptional gameplay accompanies it. Injustice 2 is a gorgeous sequel that delivers on all fronts. While the story felt a little short to me and some of the ultimate attacks feel like they still could use some variation, I enjoyed my time here. Injustice 2 comes in a year chock full of Fighting games coming out left and right and I can say without a doubt that Injustice 2 deserves a spot on any comic fan or fighting fans gaming shelf.

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Prey Review

Arkane have, in just a short amount of time, mastered their craft. The Dishonored games did a great job at throwing a bunch of tools at the player and letting them navigate rich deep worlds the way they want to. Prey feels the same, only amplified. Trading in swords and spirits for guns and neurological enhancements, Prey could be construed as Arkane’s take on science fiction. It hits some pretty familiar beats throughout, but Prey feels like a natural evolution of the Arkane trademark formula.


Prey itself takes place in an alternate timeline where John F Kennedy survived the assassination attempt in 1963, in turn directing more funding into the space program and sending us into space much earlier. In Prey, you are Morgan Yu, an employee for Transtar who presently owns the research space station Talos-1. Morgan wakes up with little to no memory of his past, but discovers that he himself is intrinsically tied to the station and its bizarre alien research.

 Prey-Screen-CorpsePrey’s storyline sounds pretty cliché and at times it is, though the story isn’t afraid to head into stranger directions than you’d normally expect. As the game began I wasn’t too keen to progress in the story, instead exploring the space station at my own leisure. Though as I got further in, Prey threw some twists at me that hooked me on the ideas it was selling. Despite this, I still found the playable character somewhat unlikable and the main villain quite forgettable. Still, Prey’s story hits the right beats at the right time to pique players’ interests. Think of it as a warped combination: Memento meets Dead Space meets BioShock.

When you play the first hour or so of Prey, more seasoned gamers will see where the game draws inspiration. You’re on a space station, it’s falling apart, you start off with a wrench, you use powers to defend yourself called psionics and you’re being lead along by a faceless or mysterious voice. Prey is woven from strong genes – taking inspiration from Dead Space, Dishonored, System Shock and BioShock. It’s a first-person game that isn’t afraid to have moments of quiet time to let you explore the sprawling space station that is Talos-1 at your own pace and leisure.

That’s really the name of the game with Prey. It’s an open world, that lets you explore areas of the space station in (almost) whatever order you wish. Everything is connected, whether you want to naturally get to an area using the winding corridors of the space station or you want to leave the station and re-enter it elsewhere while floating in space. Prey’s densely packed world, shortcuts and connections all come together to give the game a sense of having an open world without the barren filler environments that commonly come with it.

When you’re navigating the world of Prey you’ll be outfitted with a variety of abilities, weapons and powers that let you approach the playground of Talos-1 the way you want to. Most weapons serve a dual purpose – they can also be used to create platform on the walls to circumvent obstacles, or activate buttons from a short distance away. Each weapon having multiple uses encourages experimentation, as well as thinking outside of the box.

When you’re done with Prey once, I’d be surprised if you didn’t want to jump into it again. Not only because you’ll probably miss something while trying to explore the sprawling Talos-1 station, but also because you can change the outcome of the game based on your treatment of others throughout the story. It’s nothing totally revolutionary, but given Prey’s flexible systems, running through a second time is bound to be different to your first, intentional or not.

Your play style will greatly decide how long it’ll take you to run through Prey, though I’d estimate most players would get at least fifteen to twenty hours out of their first run. Perhaps even more if they explored the station thoroughly. This much is certain: Prey is a game that just begs to be played at least once more once you’ve finished it.

Taking a page out of Dishonored’s book, Prey features a stylised art style to bring its world to life. The result is something that never looks hyper-realistic but something more distinctive instead. Artistically speaking, Prey brings together retro designs with futuristic ones to create something not unlike BioShock’s Art Deco style. From a technical standpoint, the game is running on CryEngine which brings with it the usual caveats for consoles – namely longer than desirable load times. It’s not the best-looking game, especially compared to others, but Prey does its own thing and it does its own thing well.

Prey’s world is run down yet colourful, and the soundtrack perfectly complements the experience. Composed by Mick Gordon, the score is filled with sublime synth beats and strange, otherworldly noises and sound effects to create something eerie, atmospheric and tense. These pieces do an amazing job at elevating the already strong atmosphere aboard Talos-1, and is quite possibly one of the strongest soundtracks I’ve ever heard in a game.

Prey is another win for Arkane. It’s a game where everyone who plays it will have a different experience. One thing is certain though – that Prey remains a consistent experience from beginning to end. Providing players with intuitive gameplay systems with great synergy, freedom to approach combat how you want and game design that rewards creativity are just three ways that Prey succeeds. While BioShock was heralded as the spiritual successor to System Shock, Prey feels like a much more successful attempt. An absolute joy to play and experience.

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LEGO CITY Undercover Review

LEGO CITY Undercover was first released in 2013 exclusively to the Nintendo Wii U, with a similar release on the 3DS platform. This release is a port of the original game across all the latest platforms to a sharper, faster-loading version, which also introduces two player co-operative gameplay.


I’ve played many of the LEGO franchise games across a number of different platforms and LEGO CITY Undercover has a very familiar look and feel to its predecessors, in terms of the gameplay and the cutscenes providing the storyline in between gameplay. The game finds our hero Chase McCain returning to LEGO CITY to capture the notorious Rex Fury while also protecting Natalia Kowalski, who has entered a witness protection programme after providing evidence to put him behind bars before he managed to escape.


The first part of the game is heavily driven by cutscenes as it introduces the characters and gameplay to the player. For those familiar with LEGO games this does feel very laboured, as you’re probably itching to get started. That said, this part of the game does set the familiar humorous tone of the game, which in my opinion hasn’t grown tired at all; the detective briefing scene at the start of the game is great and features characters such as Starsky & Hutch, Sherlock Holmes and Columbo. An early level in the game takes Chase McCain to Albatross Island, which looks remarkably like Alcatraz, and the level centres around a plot line featuring numerous references to the film Shawshank Redemption. While some of the humour may be wasted on younger players, the game wouldn’t be the same without it and as an adult player it does maintain interest and puts a smile on your face.


The game may not be challenging to seasoned gamers as it’s not difficult to complete the levels, but there is plenty to explore in the 20 districts of the open-world LEGO CITY, so there’s plenty of longevity. I loved the scanner aspect of the game, which allows Chase to track the bad guys with some pretty neat tech. There are also elements of the city marked with blue and white bricks, which effectively allow our hero to perform some free running and cool slow motion action.


The game is a delight and the game will keep you entertained for hours. The open-world is great to explore and there’s plenty to achieve and unlock outside of the core storyline. There are many great elements to this game, all of which contribute to a great experience, so this comes highly recommended.

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LEGO Worlds Review

Traveller’s Tales have used the LEGO license perfectly by building Lego Worlds as a rival to Minecraft. The game is loosely tied to some rules but has a nice structure in itself to keep the players interested. The premise has the player as a space traveller who gets bumped onto the world and has his ship broken. So, he rebuilds his ship and sets off in pursuit of new words. In the way, he finds out various devices which help in building, replicating and demolishing.


There is Discovery tool which is largely used throughout the game. Just point it to a new object, hit X when it gets highlighted and the item will be added in your vast library of parts and people. You can then deploy these parts and people whenever their need arises. Going on in the game you will also get the opportunity to build an entire world from the scratch. But before that, you will get introduced to and well versed with all the rules, options and controls of the game.


You get to do amazing things and go on adventures including fighting to save a queen or saving cavemen from the wrath of volcanoes. The most amazing thing is that everything that is part of the game world is made of LEGO. So, you have almost entire control and can copy, paint, build, destroy, almost anything you want.


You can do anything you want to. Create a mountain, replicate a castle, or dig out treasure. Sometimes you may get guided by the game, sometimes you will just want to get your hands dirty and create something amazing. But learning to use the tools and getting used to its not so intelligent input manipulation is hard. Your buildings may get fiddly in the beginning, put some time into and you become an expert.

The only flaw in the game is its issue of frame rate and the camera which gets upset in congested areas. It gets especially annoying when you are moving too fast and the game loads up the terrain slowly. In local co-op mode, the game gets really patchy and may feel like everything is just disconnected from each other. But with the gameplay being of a very relaxed nature, it never becomes much of a problem.

The game has a feel that it is the first towards a much greater game. Just some tweaks here and there and Traveller’s Tales might get something outstanding in line. Still, kids can get easily lost in its world for hours and the offline and co-op mode further complement those possibilities. This game is easily a 4 out 5 for its unique experience.

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Build or Boom review

The object of Build or Boom is to be the first player to build the plans on the Blueprint Card. Once your building is done, smash your Boomer and your opponent’s structure comes down. If your tower matches exactly what’s on the card, score a point. Replace the blocks in the middle of the table and play again with a new Blueprint Card. The first Builder to reach 10 points wins.

Sounds simple, but is it really? At times, it can be, that is once the game has been played with for a while. Playing the game with my 5 year old, she and her friends struggled to get the pieces set up as pictured and it isn’t so easy to stack quickly with accuracy. For that reason, younger kids 5 to about 7 shouldn’t try to race until they really understand the game. It can be a super fast paced game that helps young children learn to react quickly and come up with some unique ideas, which is a great skill to learn. But, without the dexterity that older children have, it might make it downright frustrating to accomplish.

There’s 50 structures from the Blueprint Card deck to make. Build with speed but keep your buildings balanced. Some of these structures take some pretty careful balance. Ever build something several stories high on top of a cone before? You will now. Or boom goes the dynamite.

The game is well made from strong plastic and the packaging is sturdy. To optimize the game hopefully in future releases, they should rethink the platform by making it a flat concrete looking base and make the box from a cheaper material to cut on cost.

If you love games that are truly interactive, I give build or boom 3.5 out of 5 stars!

Video Game Reviews: Moto Racer 4

If I’m honest I’d forgotten all about the Moto Racer franchise and with good reason, it’s been over 15 years since the third game was released (although there was apparently a Nintendo DS version of the game from the same developers as this). Since then motor racing games have come a long way – be it as side-scrolling stunt games a la Trials HD; or more arcade titles like MX vs. ATV, another survivor of the PS2 era that has been resurrected (somewhat successfully, at least in terms of gameplay) by THQ Nordic; and even motorbike simulations like Ride 2 and Valentino Rossi: The Game – which means Moto Racer 4 has a lot of ground to cover.

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Developed under the supervision of the original Moto Racer designer Paul Cuisset, Moto Racer 4 delivers high-speed races and a white-knuckle ride that gleefully ignores the rules of fair play in favour of ruthless aggression – think Tron‘s light cycles meets Road Rash! I mention those two icons of motorbike racing as those have seemingly had a huge influence on this new racing title: the action is as fast and furious as Road Rash and in a strange design choice, hitting turbo (activated by pulling a wheelie, aka a simple one button press) sees weird light beams fly out the back of your racers outfit a la Tron. And ehen it comes to racing outfits… well, the suits look like they’ve stepped straight out of a Power Rangers/Super Sentai show, right down to a very familiar red body suit and mask!

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Speaking of graphics, they are Moto Racer 4‘s biggest downfall. Whilst ths game has been released on current-gen consoles (and works with PSVR for those lucky enough to afford it) it doesn’t even slightly push current technology – in fact graphically this racer looks like it has been ported over from iOS or Android platforms, it’s that simplistic. In fact Gameloft’s Asphalt 8, made for mobile and tablets, looks more impressive! And the graphics are nothing compared to the terrible controls – oversteering is COMPLETELY unavoidable – and odd physics, which mean that sometimes your bike feels like it’s floating above/off the road and out of your control.

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Thankfully, if the graphics leave something to be desired there is at least plenty of game modes, besides the standard career and quick play/arcade, to go at (not including the VR aspects of the game available to those with PSVR):

  • KING OF THE HILL – Each rider starts with the same time on the clock. While time runs down for the leader, the other racers get extra turbo. The first player to get their counter down to zero wins the race.
  • LAST MAN STANDING – The last player to pass each checkpoint is eliminated.
  • SURVIVAL – The race starts with very little time on the clock. Players gain time by passing the checkpoints. In single-player mode, the aim is to survive for a specific length of time. In multi-player mode, the winner is the last player with time left on their clock.
  • CATCH-UP – The player’s opponents begin the race with a head start and the player must be in first place at a specific time.
  • WOLF PACK – The player begins the race with a head start and must maintain it for a certain length of time without being overtaken.
  • GHOST BIKE – The player starts the race in last place and is not allowed to deviate from the road or collide with others. Finishing in a specified minimum place.
  • GOLDEN HELMET – Competitors must earn the one golden helmet up for grabs during the race. To do this, they must be first past the initial checkpoint. If the player wearing the golden helmet is knocked by another player, s/he surrenders it to that player. If a player falls off their bike, s/he loses the helmet and it is automatically sent to the next checkpoint.

Unfortunately – thanks to the games simple graphics, bizarre physics and dodgy controls – it would seem Moto Racer 4 might be the end of this just-resurrected franchise. If you’re a motorbike game fan and REALLY want to give this one a go, wait till it hits the bargain bins at least.

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Moto Racer 4 is out now on PS4, Xbox One and PC.

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Final Fantasy XV Review

At its heart, Final Fantasy games have always been about what makes us human.


While wrapped up in bombastic and grandiose storylines, the themes of love, family and companionship run deep throughout the beloved JRPG series.
Final Fantasy 15, arguably the most anticipated entry since FF7, is a game about friendship and the importance of the ties that bind.

You play Prince Noctis, a King-in-waiting, on a road trip with his four bodyguards to his wedding with a childhood friend – an arranged marriage meant to bring peace between two warring nations.


Things, of course, don’t go to plan and soon you’re left fighting for survival and all that’s important to you. And throughout the course of FF15’s 30-hour long main campaign, you’ll be doing plenty of fighting.

In an effort to appeal to a wider fanbase, developer Square Enix have ditched the series typical turned-based combat, which has been bit-by-bit phased out, for a more action-orientated approach.

Battles play out like something out of a Devil May Cry or Ninja Gaiden game – with a furious flurry of attacks delivered by pressing down and holding one button.


However, that only deals so much damage – so you have to make use of buffers to increase the power of your blows like hitting an enemy from their blindspot and linking blows. During fights you only control Noctis but you can shout orders to your friends Gladiolus, Prompto and Ignis – then launch a powerful follow-up strike with a well-timed button press. It’s simple to pick up and play, but harder to master, with the nuances to combat making fights fast, furious and frantic – especially when swarmed by huge numbers of enemies. The bold changes means FF15’s combat system is one of its best features – unlike other entries in the series random battles are no longer a chore you have to labour through to level up but a joy to play.

The world of Eos, where Final Fantasy 15’s adventure is set, is also one of the main highlights – a vivid, gorgeous place that is teeming with life and has locations that will leave you breathless.

One such area Noctis’s journey takes you to is the city of Altissia – a Venice style location full of canals, waterfalls and gondolas which is jaw-dropping to behold

Each area, whether it is a sprawling capital or quaint town by the beach, is full of life around every corner – with random conversations you can overhear that help draw you into the setting further.


One such moment was when I ran past an upset child with his father, who was asking why his mum wasn’t able to come to dinner that night – a heart wrenching little touch that made me feel like I was in a real world. To get between these impressive locations Noctis and his friends travel the vast map of Eos in his dad’s luxury sports car, the Regalia, but these journeys aren’t just a matter of getting from A to B. Long journeys can take almost ten minutes, and during this time you’re able to take in the sights of FF15’s impressive locals, stumble across side quests and learn more about your friends/bodyguards.


Large parts of the character building occurs during these scenes, with your three musketeers talking to you and revealing more about themselves and the camaraderie between the quartet. During these road trips I learnt about Prompto’s love of photography, Gladiolus’s passion of reading and how Ignis always likes to be the one driving. These little moments, along with the banter between the ragtag bunch of heroes, helps to flesh them and their relationships out – making them some of Final Fantasy’s most vivid characters yet. Their friendship, which turns into a brotherhood, is the driving force in a story which at times feels a bit muddled and vague. A number of big story beats fail to resonate as powerfully as they could have done because what’s happening is not explained clearly enough.

While that is an issue, Final Fantasy games often have stories that can seem impenetrable or hard to grasp – it’s the experience as a whole that makes it worthwhile.

And with FF15 the awesome combat system, beautiful world and memorable characters all combine to make it one of the series best entries in years.

Like with the revered Final Fantasy 7, Noctis’s adventure in Eos breathes new life into the JRPG genre and is set to draw in a whole new audience of players. Square Enix have shown that you can teach an old dog new tricks – and with it created one of the best games of this generation.

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WWE 2K17 Review

After playing the game for about 5 days, I can honestly say I’ve played enough of this game to give some final thoughts on it. I doubt anyone personally cares what I think, but I decided “hey it’s the internet so ill post it because I can”. I’ve divided everything up into a few sections so can individually go over everything with some detail. prepare to read huge walls of text as i begin my review.

MY CAREER MODE

Out of everything that was hyped for 2K17, My Career Mode took the cake. The addition of Promos and the Paul heyman guy challenge shown in the trailers seemed to show us that the game was heading in the right direction. Upon actually playing the mode, however, you find out that its just as bland and grindy as the last two games. The lack of progression feels so awful when your fighting the same people every week, putting on the best matches you can with the likes of Fandango and Bo Dallas, attempting to create 5 star watches with jobbers just so you can move up the ranks. My career mode feels like a crappy version of Universe Mode where you have to grind until the end of time to increase stats, attributes or even to buy a decent finishing move pack. Overall, it’s a huge disappointment.


GAMEPLAY

Throughout all the wrestling games ever made, the last 3 have had the best gameplay by far. The addition of Roll outs, a better ladder setup system, new mini-game for ladder matches and the new OMG moments, have all created a very realistic feel to the game that is much needed. Many glitches do occur here and there and the overall pacing of the matches still seems a little too fast for my taste, none the less it’s the best gameplay we’ve had thus far.


GRAPHICS

This one seems to be a very debatable issue as certain aspects of the game look great, while others seem to fall very flat. I noticed pretty quickly that certain characters had more attention to detail then others, as if they just couldn’t afford a budget for other characters. The likes of Brock Lesnar, Goldberg, Finn Balor and some others have amazing lighting, attention to detail and overall great textures/models. Other characters, however, have gotten the “PS2 Graphics” treatment where they look like they were made in the character creation tool but look far worse. I’m not entirely impressed with the graphics nor am i really that disappointed in them as these most sports games have meh visuals.


UNIVERSE MODE

Out of everything that is wrong with 2k17, Universe mode seems to be what saves this game from being put in the bargain bin. Universe mode provides endless customization, playability, and overall player control. Where Career Mode seems to have its faults, Universe seems to provide the fix for them along with providing loads of content.


INTERFACE

Usually, this is something I could really care less about in most games, however, this interface is just awful. Universe mode specifically seems to be harder to navigate through, not to mention that once you start a show, you can’t go back to change any universe settings, check the calendar or reach basic universe functions like who holds the current title.

FINAL THOUGHTS AND VERDICT

WWE 2K17 provides more content then the previous game and delivers gameplay that certainty out matches any of the previous games. However, i don’t think this should be something 2k should be praised for. Many of the “New additions” aren’t even new at all. Backstage brawling and crowd fighting were done long ago with even more content included with it and in much more detail. The creation suite has loads of content to deck your character out with, however, past games have had a pretty fair amount of customization until 2k15 came out with its new gameplay engine. The honest truth is that a wrestling game like SVR 2007 and 2008 had loads more content then the current games do and even delivered massively in the My Career mode with full-voiced characters, customizing locker rooms and the ability to go through a full-blown story with a created character or current WWE Star. WWE 2k17 is playing a long game of catch up with older games and that’s disappointing. The only area 2k17 seems to evolve and capitalize on is its realistic gameplay, even then though it has trouble keeping it afloat. I will give this game an final score of 6/10

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Dark Souls 3 Review

The “Dark Souls” series has become synonymous with one thing: punishing difficulty. But the series isn’t just for masochists who crave a more difficult brand of video game. “Dark Souls 3” has a comparable difficulty to its predecessors, sure, but the experience is much more than a rigorous loop of trial and error. 

 
The “Dark Souls” experience is about discovery, progression and success that grants a sense of satisfaction that is severely lacking in much of the adventure genre. “Dark Souls 3” impeccably improves on the structure of the original “Dark Souls” and “Dark Souls 2” all while managing to make the experience more accessible to newcomers. 

 
“Dark Souls 2” introduced players to a vast open world, but one that suffered from flaws in its layout. In an otherwise excellent game, it had several new areas to explore that all branched from the central hub area. Having the hub at the center of everything meant that the player had to do a lot of backtracking, and never ventured far from home. There’s a psychology to that design that doesn’t mesh with the game’s tone. The “Dark Souls” experience is about exploring areas that feel inherently foreign. Each new environment welcomes the player with hordes of dangerous creatures and numerous twisting paths that lead to parts unknown. By design, each new area is supposed to feel alienating. Some of that feeling is lost when the warm, welcoming hub world is nearby. 


In “Dark Souls 3” the hub world can’t even be accessed on foot. It’s far away and can only be accessed by bonfire travel. The knight, or warlock or thief that you’ve created is on his or her own in the uninviting and terrifying world. Every step journeys farther away from a place of normalcy. “Bloodborne” perfected the art of an interconnected open world; one where progressing to new areas somehow linked to previous ones. “Dark Souls 3” shows that From Software recognizes that perfection. Discovering new areas in this game conveys a mix of reward and fear of what lies ahead that isn’t found in other games. 


 
The “Dark Souls” series usually has a front loaded difficulty. That’s especially the case with “Bloodborne.” The beginning areas are the most difficult while the player figures out what works and what doesn’t. Then things finally “click” and the player can breeze through future areas. “Dark Souls 3” is more balanced. The beginning isn’t as punishing. Actually, it is, but no more punishing from the rest of the game. 

 
The balance of “Dark Souls 3’s” combat is one of its most underrated achievements. Balance is as important to a game like this as it is to something like the “Street Fighter” series. There are many ways to approach its action. The game offers dozens of weapons to choose from throughout the journey, all which have different attack speeds and unique abilities. Different characters can rely on spells or arrows for ranged attack. It’s possible to make a character who relies on counter punching after a successful block or parry. I got hooked on “Bloodborne’s” style and never relied on a shield, and instead crafted a character with good agility for dodging. 

 
There isn’t a right or wrong way to approach a character in “Dark Souls 3.” Every type has their own strengths and weaknesses. There’s no exploitive easy button character. “Dark Souls 3” is designed to be challenging for every character class. My advice is to choose one path and continue it. Don’t start with a mage and change it to a knight halfway through the game. Don’t become a jack of all trades and a master of none. Specialization is key. 
“Dark Souls 3” is an excellent jumping off point for the uninitiated. The lore isn’t connected to the first two games, at least as far as one could tell during the review process. The “Souls” series is lore heavy, so there may be some deep-seeded connection between all three games, but newcomers won’t miss much in that department. More importantly, “Dark Souls 3” doesn’t assume the player knows the gameplay mechanics from the previous games. That’s partially because much of the core mechanics have been altered in the sequel. 
 
Hollowing is gone. The biggest annoyance and arguably the most punishing aspect of “Dark Souls 2” is no more. Hollowing used to mean the player’s maximum health decreased with each death. In a game like “Dark Souls” where one dies a lot, this can be a serious hindrance on progress. I always viewed it like the game was punishing me for even attempting a new area or boss. Fortunately, that mechanic is gone in “Dark Souls 3.” Well, it’s mostly gone. The player will lose some health upon death, but it doesn’t stack with subsequent deaths. The process can be reversed with ember items, which are comparable to human effigies from the previous game. Restoring humanity (it’s called harnessing the power of the Lord of Cinder in “Dark Souls 3”) with embers is also tied to the game’s co-op gameplay. 

Co-op phantoms can only be summoned if humanity is restored to the player. In other words, you’ll have to use an ember in order to summon help from a friend. Ember availability is close to how plentiful human effigies were in “Dark Souls 2.” They can also be purchased in exchange for souls in the hub area. Defeating any boss will also restore humanity without having to burn an ember usage.

Online play of the “Souls” series has always been unique. Summoning a friend is an easy way to get through a boss that has been beating you to a pulp for ten or more attempts. It’s the same in “Dark Souls 3.” There should be a limit on how many times one can summon a friend. It takes away from some of the game’s difficulty, which takes away from the satisfaction once victory is achieved. 

 
The game’s message system thankfully returns, which is one of the most genius uses of online play in any adventure game. Message senders are limited to what words they can leave for other players, but the game gives enough options to be descriptive. Each message is a helping hand from a nameless player going through the same tribulations that you are. It’s like the players are bound by the fraternity of “Dark Souls” and feel compelled to leave helpful messages to others in need. There’s hope for internet comments yet!

The “Dark Souls” series has an undeniable learning curve. There’s absolutely no way anyone will pick up a game controller for the first time and begin with a “Dark Souls” game. It’s an acquired taste that requires patience and appreciation for what the game asks of its players. Once that “eureka” moment happens, the game becomes one of the most rewarding experiences in the medium. Give it a chance, stick with it and make each death a learning experience. It might just become your new favorite series. 

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