Overdue Review: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

I’ve been a big fan of the Legend of Zelda series since I played the Ocarina of Time back in the late 90’s. I spent plenty of time playing through several of the Zelda titles that followed, but at some point I stopped playing on Nintendo systems and missed out a couple entries, including Breath of the Wild

the wilds

With a new Switch in hand I finally got around to see Breath of the Wild, the series first foray into open world gameplay. Breath of the Wild fits into the genre perfectly and improves upon open world mechanics by making the world interesting to explore. And how it implements it’s post-apocalyptic setting into the gameplay and very detailed world is impressive though slightly flawed in some areas of said gameplay. 

 

Link awakens 100 years later to lost memories and a Hyrule that has been left in ruins for some time. It isn’t a desolated, burnt out landscape. The wilds have reclaimed much of the ruins that are now left behind. Princess Zelda’s failed plan to stop Ganon a century ago left it in ruins and now she is being held captive by Ganon. And in typical Legend of Zelda fashion you need to save Princess Zelda from Ganon’s clutches. And to do so Link must now challenge four divine beasts and help free the four guardian’s he worked with 100 years ago.

 

Breath of the Wild even takes deeper glimpses into Links personal history with the four guardian’s. It’s interesting to see Link having actual close relationships and friends beyond Zelda. This adds a whole new layer of depth to Link as a character and the whole story in the game.

divine beast puzzle solving

But as cool as the story is there is a whole host of new gameplay mechanics introduced in Breath of the Wild.  The most important of them all being the sheikah slate. This little trinket is a multi purpose tool. It acts as your map, camera, and an item tracker for crafting materials. Also, it allows you to access several terminals throughout the game world, which are for, most importantly, accessing the shrines.

 

The sheikah slate’s most important use though is for the four physics bending tools you use in dungeons and shrines. You’ll use these to solve puzzles in both area types. They’ve effectively replaced the general puzzle solving from other Zelda games. And they’re a nice cool twist on those traditional puzzles. Also acts as an excuse to use the switch’s motion controls to physically move things around.

 

Shrines act as little dungeons to test your puzzle solving skills. You use the different sheikah slate powers to solve different physics puzzles. At the end of the shrine you the shrine’s monk offers you a spirit orb. Collecting four of these orbs and returning them to the Temple of Light allows you to either get a whole new piece of heart or extend your stamina meter. The shrines are great puzzle solving challenges with an excellent award at the end. And one essential to becoming stronger in the game. 

botw combat
theguardian.com

Combat is still very classically Legend of Zelda with some small differences. You can still target enemies, dodging, and attacking. There are now a variety of weapons at your disposal. Bow and arrows are now provided immediately, but can’t seem to be used while targeting an enemy. You have to manually target with it and this can be mildly annoying when trying to switch to melee combat. It isn’t difficult to use, but switching viewpoints is slightly jarring. Also, two handed weapons are introduced to the game.

 

While this variety is cool there is a breakage system attached to them. I have slightly mixed feelings about it. I’m not usually a huge fan of these types of systems in the first place. And I’m not 100% on it, but I see how it works in the Breath of the Wild’s world with surviving in the “wilds” of Hyrule. Having to go from weapon to weapon to survive fits the game and its aesthetic. However it does back fire when you receive weapons that belonged to notable characters. Knowing that these important weapons just break in the end makes them feel less meaningful to use them.

 

Steeds and mounts are included to get around. Now instead of having solely Epona (as far as I know) you will be able to wrangle wild horses throughout Hyrule and tame them. You can take them to stables in each of the regions to have them saddled and held there. I’m not sure if Epona is in the game, but as far as I had gotten into the game I had not run into her.  

more divine beast puzzle solving

The most interesting and hands down my favorite of the new mechanics introduced to Breath of the Wild is cooking. Cooking is essentially crafting. You can harvest several food ingredients from the environment and animals to make delicious food. Delicious food which provide health and even different buffs. You can boost your speed, defense, attack, resistances, and even temporary health. Aside from food you can also gather monster parts, insects, and lizards which help with making elixirs which offer the same buffs as food. 

 

The traditional dungeons are now all placed within the four mechanical Divine beasts you are tasked to save. Much like the shrines there is next to no combat and are mostly puzzle focused. You’ll still be using your sheikah slate to solve puzzles, but you will also be able to manipulate certain parts of the divine beast themselves. Which really makes for some puzzling, well, puzzles. Like using a one divine beast’s water spewing elephant trunk to put out fires and spin mill wheels. Another had me spinning three parts of its cylindrical body to line up power lines to other parts of its body. 

 

The only combat in the divine beasts are the bosses. These are unique to each divine beast, but fighting them doesn’t quite have the same level of strategy that enjoyed from other Zelda titles. Zelda bosses of past games had little weak points and gimmicks to fight them. Strategizing a bit was important to beating them. Breath of the Wild’s bosses do still require some strategy, but it feels a bit more clumsy and less precise defeating bosses. A bit more hack and slash.   

 

Breath of the Wild is filled with many of traditional Zelda sounds, songs, and noises we’ve come to know and love. Opening chests and item discovering jingles are still lovely to hear. But new sounds stand out, too. The jingle when you cook your meals and potions will be immediately stuck in your head. Monsters have their own distinct groans and screeches. The sound of nature’s whipping winds and birds chirping. And massive thunderstorms and their vicious rolling thunder cut through the air when they move over the land. 

hyrule view

And said land is absolutely stunning to look at as it is to listen to and explore. I was prepared for how beautiful of a world I was going to be invited into for Breath of the Wild, but actually playing in it has left me beyond impress. It is a massive beautifully rendered world. The landscape is varied and vast. Plains have sweeping grass. Mountains tower overhead with snowfall. Towns are set into the world perfectly. They are nestled into the landscape without feeling forced in. 

 

Character models are all varied in size and shape. Classic Zelda monsters have different, but familiar looks to them. Some with wonderful new looks and takes. The same can be said about the races as well. Especially, the Zora. They’re most recent take on the Zora looking like a mix of shark and fish. They look the most badass they have ever been in a Zelda game. The Rito, the bird-like folk, also look far more amazing than some older iterations. Their bird image is even more leaned into looking like colorful, buff birds and I am here for it. The Goron’s and Gerudo look very similar, but still more improved looking amazing as ever. Goron’s now stand tall and massive, while the Gerudo have more color and desert flair. 

gerudo chats

Breath of the Wild is a fantastic open-world game. It takes many of the issues other open-world games run into and manages to make them more interesting. The things you can find throughout the world are interesting and fun to get involved in. None of it seems generic or bland. Weapon breaking limits are a little annoying, but I see how they fit into the game’s mechanical themes of surviving in the wilds. Still doesn’t make sense for certain key story weapons you get though. They lose their significance when you realize they are going to just end up breaking.

 

But as a Legend of Zelda games there are some things I do kind of miss or feel like Breath of the Wild fell short. I miss gimmicky dungeon bosses. Being able to figure out how to fight the boss and expose its weaknesses felt so satisfying. After the two bosses I faced, even though strategy wasn’t entirely lacking, it just felt more clumsy than older Zelda title bosses. 

 

As much as I dislike some of these small issues, Breath of the Wild is still a stand out game as a Zelda title and especially an open world game. Exploring the world of Hyrule itself has never been more enjoyable. Interacting with its residents and different races and locales, exploring dungeons, and saving Hyrule makes Breath of the Wild one of the best entries in the Zelda series.

Outer Wilds Review

OW_Campfire

When I first started playing Outer Wilds I knew exploration was going to be a big focus of the game,  but I did not expect how focused and well implemented exploring would be to its entire gameplay. Every tool you use from your space ship to a fancy alien translator is essential for discovering the mysteries hidden in the Outer Wilds beautiful and dangerous solar system. And be warned: time isn’t on your side.

You take control of an unnamed blue skinned four eyed alien on a planet with fellow aliens like yourself. It’s the day of your first flight day into space. But strange things begin happening after the discovery of a statue of a long dead alien race, known as the Nomai. As soon as you take off a time loop occurs. When you die or go through the universe’s 22 minute time limit the game returns you back to the beginning, after the sun goes supernova, waking up looking at the stars again. 

There is a lot going on in Outer Wilds gameplay-wise. First and foremost, is the time loop mechanic. It is very reminiscent of Majora’s Mask time travel mechanic. You retain what has happened in your last run and you sort of maintain the “progress” you make. And your main form progress in the game is information gathering. 

OW_Translator

You can gather said information with the help of three very handy tools. A Nomai translator to read the experiences of a small group who have explored the very same solar system you live in. Much of the information you find is through these translations. 

You are also given a signal scope to pick up on different frequencies you find throughout the solar system. Some of them belong to the fellow travelers of your space organization. Other sounds and signals are of a mysterious rock shard associated with a strange moon that disappears and reappears throughout the solar system.

Lastly you can use the scout launcher, a launchable camera to take pictures of distant places and things. It is particularly useful for places you can’t reach and survey the area. You can explore some even further places and areas of mystery if you find the right clues. 

All of these tools are easy to use and control, comfortably allowing you to explore the solar system. 

OW_ShipInterior

They also all help you find information which get added to your ships log. Each discovery you make adds a new ship log entry. These entries are organized into the specific discoveries you’ve made like specific quest entries in other games. Much like real life discoveries and exploration you follow the thread of information to expand each log entry. Outer Wilds is very helpful guiding you subtly to the next clue with notifications and highlighting certain sentences in orange in the entry. 

It’s a very compelling and immersive way of getting the player to explore the world. Seeing the branching connections of your discoveries helps to provide depth to the solar system your exploring and gives you the sense you are uncovering a deep mystery. And with each discovery more questions rise making you want to eagerly explore the next clue to find out more.

I love this method since it helps you when you’re lost, but doesn’t shove a marker on the HUD in your face. This makes less clutter on your HUD and gives you the freedom to switch up priorities, letting you explore as you please.

OW_Moon

Outer Wilds solar system is wonderfully rendered in a cel-shaded, cartoon-y look. And well made cel-shading. Each planet is well crafted and unique in its look, making for a small, but well lived in solar system. One planet is cracking apart with a black hole at its core. Another is wracked by storms and covered in oceans. Several of the planets even feature well constructed and beautiful Nomai ruins. 

Outer Wilds is wonderfully successful at using all of its mechanics to make exploration highly rewarding. It makes the moments of discovery on each planet and object in the solar system unique, awe inspiring, chilling, scary, or even perplexing. Outer Wilds maintains such a great level of mystery to its universe it makes you want to explore every bit of it. And it is worth bit of your time to do so.

Image source: mobiusdigitalgames.com press documents

BELOW Review

 

 

enter below
whatliesbelow.com

I usually love when a game takes awhile to be made. There is that hope they will use that extra time to fix all the game’s technical issues. Now I know this isn’t always true. A game can still have technical and gameplay problems. After spending five years in development BELOW is an example with the latter problem of gameplay issues.

BELOW is an aesthetically pleasing game capturing the dark and moody vibe you would expect from delving into a dungeon below a cave. It’s dark, dreary, wet, and just all-around brooding in its atmosphere. But it is in BELOW’s slow-paced gameplay where the game falters. Few encounters are challenging, aspects of gameplay are poorly explained, while still being strong staples of the roguelite genre. So, it does have functioning gameplay, but all it offers is a surface level understanding of its mechanics.

BELOW’s story is ambiguous. Like very ambiguous. And there are only a handful of small hints as to what the story is about. You’re a warrior/adventurer who has sailed to this dreary island and you enter the cave and delve its depths. For what, who knows. Possibly for these little light crystals that fuel a strange lantern on your belt.

symbols in the depth
whatliesbelow.com

The world you enter into in BELOW is dark. And I mean very dark and foreboding atmosphere which I really dig. Especially, with a title like BELOW your game’s aesthetic better be dark and foreboding. Several dark colors and hues. Many of the areas of the depths are VERY dark for obvious reasons. The game uses darkness quite well to capture that feeling of being lost and surviving in the depths.

BELOW is largely absent of music. Music only occurs at the campfire. What little music there is, is very ethereal, yet brooding. Plenty of cave sound effects such as dripping water, echoes and ambient silence. The sound of your sword whooshing through grass and bouncing off stone and metal are all there and they sound amazing as they echo through the depths. Creature sounds are fitting with screeches and clicks you would associate with creatures that live in the dark. Much like its visuals BELOW has excellent sound aesthetics.

While BELOW excels in its aesthetics, it struggles with its gameplay. And it isn’t so much that it lacks function or form. It more so fails to explain its own mechanics. It has your typical survival/ rougelite elements. Hunger and thirst management are important. Permadeath with the ability to find your body with your old equipment. Fighting is standard action game combat. Sword and shield with a three-swing combo. Doesn’t seem to be any more complicated than that. All of the usual mechanics are there.

campfire
whatliesbelow.com

One of the more unique mechanics BELOW has is the little lantern hanging from your waist. By collecting the little light crystals that I mentioned at the start you can fuel this lantern as a much needed light source in the depths when you don’t have torch. These crystals are mainly gathered by killing enemies. But beyond being a source of light and somehow imoportant to the story, I don’t see what else the lantern offers in gameplay.

You can find materials in the depths to create equipment like arrows and torches. Can even craft ingredients into other ingredients. For example, three embers can be turned into a pile of phosphorus for explosives. There is a campfire that functions as a resting space to create equipment and cook more nourishing food. It makes finding ingredients important and use the  You do play as a slightly different character for each run. The garb and style of dressing is the same, but with slightly different patterns and colors.

One of BELOW’s other drawbacks is its slow pacing bordering on boring. There are things to do in most of the rooms in the depths, but nothing really stands out. The pacing in the survival is also completely off. Very little food ever shows up. Which is understandable with a roguelite game, but it feels so inconsistent that it is the reason for me dying in every run I played through. Every other resource is in available enough to survive even a little bit. I just wish food sources could be gathered and found more often, so my deaths aren’t only caused by one condition.

Does a very poor job of explaining its own mechanics. I get what the game is telling me in what it is doing, but I still feel like I’m not entirely sure what exactly is happening. The one mechanic in particular with a lack of explanation was playing through an old run. The campfire before entering the cave is able to be turned a blue color and once you do it transports you to an alternate cave…I think.

creatures of the depth
whatliesbelow.com

All I know is as I explored I found my old body. I’m going to assume this was my old run. I’m not sure if I had continued without messing with the flame if it would have been a fresh run without my characters old body and stuff. But this moment is one of many in which the game doesn’t go out of the way to explain itself. I’m still determining if it’s good or bad.

BELOW’s aesthetic is impressive. There is no doubt about that. It captures the oppressiveness of darkness in the cold depths of an increasingly dangerous cave. And its gameplay mechanics are incredibly easy to use and fitting for a roguelite. But, the pace is insanely slow and those gameplay mechanics are poorly explained, to the point of confusion. I still don’t entirely understand what I’m doing when I interact with certain parts of the game. I know I did something, but I’m not sure what exactly it is I did. I’m really mixed about this one. It isn’t a terrible game. It could just be better.

No Man’s Sky Review

 

cockpit

*Note: I played the PS4 version of this game which has huge performance differences compared to the PC version.

No Man’s Sky is a game with a very complicated history. Like it or not the game garnered a huge amount of controversy due to the developer and creators over hyped talk of the game as it leads up to launch. And when it finally came out it failed to deliver on most, if not all, of its promises.

My own experience with the game wasn’t nearly as devastating as some folk’s experiences. I kind of enjoyed my time with it, but everything about the game at the time was so shallow I got bored with the game very easily. Since then there have been several free updates and with the release of No Man’s Sky: Next the game received a huge booster to the games overall life and playability. I’m finding myself loving what the game has to offer now that it has reached its full potential. Granted some of it can feel quite tedious at times.

Maybe the only thing that hasn’t entirely been improved in the game is its story. It still feels like background fluff that doesn’t feel like I need to interact with it. The only obligation I ever have to complete the main quest stuff is for the sake of completing tutorials. There is still a ton of mystery behind the story, which can draw players in, but not enough maybe to keep them interested in the game.

ashbourn
There are several new core stories though that you can become involved in however. They are a tad bit more intriguing than the Atlas path, but there is a whole level of tedium that can get frustrating. Especially, having to manage all the games resources to travel between solar systems and planets.

Gameplay is also greatly expanded upon compared to the base game. There is now a whole host of content you can partake in to engage with the game. The five big additions to the game are the base building, freighter/fleet command, mission boards, character customization, and the recently added deep sea exploration.

cozy cabin home
You’re introduced to No Man’s Sky’s base building mechanics very early on in the game. The building mechanics feel very smooth and intuitive as building pieces seamlessly snap together. I only built a simple cabin in the tutorial, but it instantly felt satisfying constructing my own little home out in space.

Further expanding upon your property ownership in the game you’ll be able to own your own freighter ship. You heard correctly you’ll be able to own one of those giant freight ships you saw warping into the system. You’ll be able to dock aboard it, construct rooms with in it and even send ships in your fleet out into the galaxy on missions. These missions can help collect resource, trade items for currency, and even combat missions. And you can expand upon your fleet by recruiting more ships.

There are now mission boards in every space station. You can pick up simple missions you can complete to gain favor with either one of the three races or with the different guilds. It’s a nice bit of side content you can accomplish at your own pace to facilitate both rep and funds. But, nothing new to the concept of a “bounty board”.

my buddy

The final and latest addition to the game is the deep sea exploration. Much like many of No Man’s Sky’s content you are guided through a tutorial quest to learn how to explore and build under water. The base building and crafting are the same as the base you have built on land. You establish your base then start constructing the different parts to make your base. It’s just as intuitive and simple as the regular base building.

But the unique addition you get from the deep sea exploration is the ability to construct and helm your very own submarine called the Nautilon. With your little submarine you can use your sonar to find wreckage of all sorts. Crashed freighters and starships can be found amongst the seaweed and sea life. There are also sunken buildings and ruins down in the deep as well. All which function like space exploration as you discover and search them. You’ll find terminals to hack, items, and new mysteries to uncover. The deep sea exploration adds a nice layer of exploration to those who can’t get enough exploring out in space.

No Man’s Sky FX and music are probably one of the few things to still have no changes made to them. All the games sound and music have all stayed the me since its release as far as I can tell. That being said, they are still immersive and fitting for traveling an expansive sci-fi universe.

overlook

The best improvements, or at least the ones I was happiest to see were the visual and graphical improvements that were made to the game. And, holy hell are they huge improvements. There is actual detail and variety in…well, everything. Environments are insanely varied from planet to planet. The games flora and fauna now have defining characteristics instead of copy paste parts just stuck together. They all appear interesting and unique.

And places like space stations are actually populated with other lifeforms. When No Man’s Sky first came out the space stations were sparsely filled with only four to five aliens occupying the station. Now there are about 11-20 with several of them occupying vendors giving the area’s space a feeling of being lived in. And this goes for nearly all the environments in the game. No Man’s Sky’s universe now feels like a fully fleshed out sci-fi galaxy.

Hello Games went ahead and accomplished everything they meant to accomplish when they first showcased the games varied worlds in its first trailer. I can understand those who saw that initial trailer felt mislead.

bright orbs
Horrendous frame drops do happen in the in some of the game’s more intense moments such as entering the atmosphere of a planet or travelling between galaxies. It isn’t massively disruptive to the experience, as the frame dropping goes back to normal after these occurrences. But, it isn’t exactly pleasant to witness either.

No Man’s Sky has finally become what it was meant to be when it was announced three years ago. As someone who enjoyed the basic idea of what the game was about I’m glad that Hello Games fully fleshed out the game to what it was meant to be in the first place. However, I don’t expect to those people who felt lied and cheated to by Hello Games hype, to come around even with the improvements. Sadly, you can’t win everyone over after such an immense screw up on the developer’s part. While I don’t think Hello Games has fully redeemed themselves, No Man’s Sky itself is far better and far more fun. It is fun and worth playing again if you can forgive its past faults.

Overdue Review: Fallout: New Vegas

Developer: Obsidian Entertainment

Publisher: Bethesda Game Studios

Fallout games never held a huge place in my heart. I know plenty of gamers who have a deep affection for the games. I played both Fallout 3 and 4 and enjoyed both. However, I did miss out on what has been considered the pinnacle of the Fallout series, Fallout: New Vegas. I don’t know why it took so long especially with Obsidian Entertainment being the developers behind the game, whom I love as developer. Their games have always had great mechanics and excellent stories. I’m an absolute fan of the other work Obsidian has done. After playing the game you can totally add me to the group of people who see this as the best Fallout game.

new vegas ghoul
gog.com

You take the role of a mysterious person left for dead in the Nevada wasteland. The only name you’re left with is the “courier”. This is a refreshing change in Fallout: New Vegas, from almost every other Fallout game in which you take the role of a vault dweller. It leaves your character open to your own creation and design without being hindered to restrictions. It’s also one of the first times where you are not someone directly connected to the vaults.
The gameplay in Fallout: New Vegas is very akin to its predecessor Fallout 3. You get a pipboy to manage your items, quests and map access. The world is open and explorable. Your character is a blank slate and customizable. Crafting and exploring are essential to your experiences and surviving in the desert wastes. Standard faire Fallout mechanics we’ve all come to expect from the series.
You’ll have quests from a main storyline and more than enough NPCs to gather 100s of side quests from. There is plenty of content to explore here. But the most interesting aspect Fallout: New Vegas fleshes out and focuses on is its factions. Right at the opening the games several NPCs establish the importance of factions. Depending on the ways you interact with these factions you will gain favor with them. Gaining favor means deals at shops, gaining help from factions and just simply having your actions noticed and appreciated.

new vegas citizen
giantbomb.com

However, you can also gain infamy with factions as well. Much like gaining fame you can gain infamy by simple interactions in the world such as questing and hindering or attacking a faction. Most often you’ll find yourself gaining infamy in a faction by simply by helping another one. Factions will often be opposing one another so depending on whose side you choose you’ll be gaining favor with one and infamy with the other.
In typical Bethesda fashion, even with all the bug fixes and updates, Fallout: New Vegas is still clunky and wonky. Character animations still have that robotic feeling as nearly all Fallout games do.
Even for coming from the era of the Xbox 360, Fallout: New Vegas’s visuals and graphics are still incredibly stunning. I was more impressed by how fleshed out and alive Obsidian was able to make the Nevada desert wastes. Far livelier than the nuked out wastelands of Fallout 3. I always thought Fallout 3’s world was incredibly dull colored and drab. Yes, I understand it’s a nuclear apocalyptic wasteland, but there still could have been some slight variety in the environment to make it more eye appealing at times.
Fallout: New Vegas manages to make its world seem lived in where there’s civilization, wild when you’re exploring the wastes, and a pleasure to look at its wide, beautiful and expansive landscape. Cacti and other arid plants dot the land scape. Even the smallest towns have some personality even as they try to exist in the post-apocalyptic desert. A saloon will still feature neon signs that say “Open” and even the rundown gas station will maintain some of the buildings past hues. But destruction is also well rendered with burnt out houses, ruined towns and decaying civilization everywhere.

new vegas golfing
kotaku.com

Like many of that Fallout games Fallout: New Vegas’s world is well complemented by great music. Especially, in this game. It features classic 50’s songs like most of the recent Fallouts, but with taking place in Nevada, there is a lot more country/western style music. The ambient sound as you explore features chill and lonely guitars, which can very rapidly become intense action pieces as combat ramps up. I love the balance of music to fit the mood.
The games FX sounds are mostly well executed. None of it is bad, but it’s what you would expect from a Fallout game. Guns fire with a bang, blunt weapons create a crunch and slashing your enemies comes with a nice slicing noise. Creatures of the Mojave wasteland have their own unique sounds and noises. Hearing the croak of a gecko puts you on guard the moment you hear it.
The voice acting is a little hit or miss. Some offer convincing dialogue, while others can be a little stunted. The doctor you meet at the beginning of the game feels like an old soul who has seen a lot and dealt his own hardships. While the town barkeep try’s to sound like she is tough as nails, but her voice acting just felt so forced and unenthused.

mutant punching
kotaku.com

Fallout: New Vegas accomplishes everything that the other Bethesda Fallout games do, but Obsidian was able to flesh out several of the older games mechanics and manages to inject some personality into Fallout: New Vegas. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the games world and incredibly immersive mechanics. If you personally haven’t had the chance to play Fallout: New Vegas either, then I highly recommend that you do. The fans are right, and it does contain some of the best of what the series has to offer.

 

Moonlighter Review

Developer: Digital Sun

Publisher: 11 Bit Studios

Rogue-lites have very special place in my heart. I love the quick action, immense challenge, and inevitable death. In the end it was met with satisfying reward. But what I remember the most is the quick runs and intense action. In Moonlighter, however, the game decides to take a slightly slower pace and adds an additional layer of gameplay. Because in addition to the dungeon crawling you’ll be managing your own item shop as you search for items on your dungeon runs. All which is beautifully rendered in by some of the best pixel art I’ve ever seen.

moonlighter shopIn Moonlighter, you take the role of a shopkeeper named Will. At night Will moonlights (get it?) as dungeon explorer. He explores these dungeons to collect resources to sell, as well as to create new items to also sell. Will is seeking to get into the fifth dungeon which appears to be important due to how elaborate and big the door is. Of course, Will needs to make his way in there. It isn’t the most exciting or deep storytelling, but it still keeps you engaged.

Moonlighter’s gameplay loop consists of the two different parts of Will’s life: running the shop during the day and dungeon crawling/adventuring at night. You can also adventure during the day, but it means no shop time, which means no money. Also, loot drops aren’t quite as good during the day.

Some items are cursed and may destroy items within a specific direction of an item in your back pack. This creates an additional challenge in managing inventory and getting items back from the dungeon to your shop. It makes for some fun puzzle solving while in dungeons, but it can also unnecessarily slow the game down. For those players who don’t have the patience or attention span for all of this, the gameplay loop can get very tedious.

moonlighter combatMoonlighter’s combat is simple. You have a standard three swing combo no matter the weapon. But, there are plenty of weapons you can either pick up or create to offer a little more variety to the combat. It does take some time to build up the materials to build new weapons. Once again for people who may find this kind of collecting grind very tedious may not have the patience for it.

The selling and shop running in the game are fleshed out and very engaging. Materials you gather in dungeons can be sold in your shop and can be used to create items that you can also sell. Say you have several bits of iron you collected from a dungeon crawl. You can take those to the town blacksmith and have them forged together to create a sword you sell in your shop or use for yourself.

moonlighter inside shopNow you may think you’re all set and you’re a shop running pro, right? Well, Moonlighter has mechanic that makes things a little difficult for your life as a shopkeeper. The game has a working economy in which the more frequently you sell an item its value begins to depreciate. So that iron you were making a bank can soon flood the market and customers won’t be willing to buy. Or at the least not buy it at the price you’re selling it for. This adds a nice layer of challenge and variety to selling the materials instead of repetitively selling the same items.

Good, catchy music. Cute shop music and intense, dramatic dungeon music. No matter which part of Moonlighter you’re involved in the music is fitting for the setting and immerses you in the game. Monster noises and sounds are nicely varied. Weapon swings have the proper sounds that give them weight and swinging power.

moonlighter inventory screenMoonlighter manages to accomplish a lot of interesting things with its mixture of mechanics as much as it maintains itself as a rogue-lite. But it will still come down to the pacing of the game that may prevent some from playing. I love it for that fact, though. It may not be a crazy round after round, constant action rogue-lite, but those restful moments in such a beautifully rendered game gives Moonlighter its own unique personality. And, one that players who enjoy this kind of pacing will thoroughly enjoy.

Into the Breach Review

Into the Breach crew screen
subsetgames.com

FTL was my first taste of playing a rougelite game. It was such a simple looking game, yet the mechanics and gameplay were something new to some who never played rougelite games before. The idea that you could progress and be rewarded while also losing over and over again and trying new strategies to see how far you get next time. In their most recent game, Into the Breach, Subset Games found a way to take those elements and expand upon it, requiring more precise strategy and creating greater challenges.

Into the Breach isn’t deep story wise and it doesn’t need to be. You are a part of an elite group o mech warriors called the Rift Walkers. Your three-party crew travel through time (mainly back, because you failed to save the timeline) to fight the Vek. This race of massive bug-like monsters wants to destroy all of humanity by smashing their buildings and power supplies. There isn’t any known motivations for why the Vek do what they do, but isn’t important and only serves to set up the games mechanics. It’s still a fun story/premise to play in even though it isn’t the focus of the game.

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Into the Breach uses pixel art, but it looks significantly different from FTL. FTL used some fairly smoothed out pixel avatars and simple background art. Surprisingly the darker, muddier colors make the game very appealing. There are some brighter color palettes on the other islands. Some are desert and ice so there are some brighter colors thrown into the mix.

Into the Breach doesn’t do anything surprising with its artwork, but it’s still appealing and interesting enough to keep you immersed in the game.

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Combat plays out in a highly strategic manner. Your attacks can cause damage as well as movement. Sometimes they do one or the other, but some attacks can accomplish both. The ability to move your enemies and your own units around forces you decide very carefully how you attack. Sometimes an attack or movement could cause an enemy to hit a building or a friendly mech. Often it means having to make those sacrifices and taking friendly-fire.

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In a somewhat FTL-like style you fight your way across four islands and a final battle area. Into the Breach has a steep learning curve and you can easily fail a timeline and need to start over.  As you accomplish the game’s achievements you gain coins. You can purchase new squads with those coins. These new mech squads offer different playstyles to fight and move enemies adding even more variety to combat. There also fallen time travel pods in which you can other time travelers to operate your mechs, which also provide their own benefits to your squad. They can range from stat bonuses, addtional moves and even making particular mech attack stronger.

Subset Games has shown its ability to create good, challenging games, but with Into the Breach Subset has taken everything they’ve learned from FTL and has made a very tight and engaging game. The combat is succinct and makes you think out every last move carefully. Not to mention the darker hued color palette pixel art is wonderful. If you get the chance and you love rougelites then you need to check out this game.