I was thinking last month about writing a piece regarding some of the most enjoyable games I got to play in 2016. That hasn't emerged until now. Read on to see what games I played, enjoyed, frustrated and surprised me over last year.
|The many faces you will meet |
in Tales of Zestiria
Tales of Zestiria
This was my first foray into the long running series by developer Bandai Namco and I wonder why I've waited so long. Tales of games have been released on a regular basis on a number of platforms for the last 20 years and Zestiria is the first to see a dual release on both the PS3 and PS4.
Zestiria follows the legend of the shepherd, a human who can interact with seraphim (deities of the game's world of Greenwood) and purge the world of malevolence (the essence that emerges within humans, turning them into fierce creatures called hellions). In the game's early hours we become acquainted with our hero and young male shepherd Sorey, his friend and seraphim Mikleo and young female knight and lance user, Alicia. From the opening hours our trio of newly acquainted faces head out on a journey from the mountaintops of of Elysia to the lowlands of the Hyland Kingdom, amidst an impending war with its neighbouring nation, the Rolance Empire. What initialy appears to be a light-hearted journey of cleansing the world becomes a more serious matter as new friends, seraphim and acquaintances are met and new threats in the world of Glenwood reveal themselves.
Those familiar with the Tales of series will see the Linear Motion Battle System return, a fancy name given to the area that battles take place in an allows freedom of movement with the holding down of one of the controller's trigger buttons. Battles take place in the environment now rather than via a separately generated area, keeping things between exploration and battle more seamless. If you're not a fan of the lead character you can also switch to another party member to take down the hellions around you.
The world of Greenwood is an interesting world, taking inspiration from British and European folklore with a sprinkling of Eastern flavour ( Sorey obtains his initial sword from a stone akin to that of Excalibur, there is talk of a lady of the lake in one of the early visited towns and so on). The antagonists are fine but not outstanding (though it was interesting through playing Zestiria to learn how one of the antagonists became his beast-like self).
I found the characters I used in the game to be charming throughout which not only made it easy to root for them when things got tough but also care for their predicaments and hope they got to the end of their journey unscathed. As my first major Tales of title it was a very solid experience and I look forward to checking more of these out in the future.
|The newest console release title in |
the Assassin's Creed franchise,
this time set in Victorian London.
Assassin's Creed: Syndicate
The latest release in Ubisoft's now long-running franchise sees the time and location move to Victorian London. Twins Jacob and Evie Frye become involved in the Templars activities, causing them to pursue these matters to England's capital and become involved in turf wars with a major Templar of the era, Crawford Starrick.
The Assassin's Creed games have covered a variety of locations and time periods so it was surely only a matter of time before Victorian England would be one of them. This time around players have the luxury of playing as either Jacob or Evie as they progress through the game's sequences to assassinate targets working on behalf of the Templars. There are specific missions for each twin but one the whole its nice to have the option of playing as either one for the majority of the game based on your own personal tastes.
As ever there are a number of famous locations to visit such as the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square and more. Famous figures such as Alexander Bell, Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle many others also put in an appearance in AC Syndicate. In addition to the typical wrist blades, knives and smoke bombs, players are given an automatic grappling hook for use in the game. This can be used to traverse buildings and structures, making getting around the capital more dynamic and interesting. Players can also commandeer horse-drawn carts as a means of transportation and even get on top of the carriage for shootouts and fisticuffs. Its wish fulfilment at its finest.
Again I haven't spent a significant amount of time with previous Assassin's Creed and therefore for me this has been a highly enjoyable entry point into the ongoing franchise. I'll be interested in what Ubisoft does with the series going forwards.
|A fresh take on survival horror in |
Supermassive Games' Until Dawn
How often do we see developers trying to insert cinematic elements into their games these days? Its almost present in every major AAA title released. What about games that aim to be a wholly cinematic experience? Can they actually be done well? History proves there have been more misses than hits in this ever evolving medium. However, with Supermassive Games' Until Dawn, they may have just bucked that trend.
Set among the cold and desolate Blackwood mountainside and a nearby lodge (a fictional mountain range but taking inspiration from the West Canadian wilderness), players control a variety of characters as they arrive at their mutual friend's place, venture out into the wilderness, learn that things may not be quite right in the area and attempt to stay alive until the day breaks.
Those familiar with television and film will recognise some of the faces playing the in-game roles with the likes of Hayden Panettiere, Brett Dalton, Rami Malek and Peter Stormare among the motion-capped cast. Developer Suppermassive deserves an award here for the attention to detail in the game characters with some almost approaching the uncanny valley. The atmosphere in the game is often well-realised as players guide their survivors around the lodge, the surrounding woods, mines, a nearby asylum and more.
The developers have done a fine job allowing players to remain in control throughout Until Dawn with this only being taken away during story development sections or brief moments of scene setting for the game's chapters. There is also the interesting Butterfly Effect (not the film with Ashton Kutcher) mechanic where making choices during the game can affect an outcome later in the game (i.e moving a baseball bat in the lodge's basement or giving a character a weapon/tool at a certain point in the game, etc.) This can also affect how those characters behave towards you which in some cases can be the difference between life and death for the player.
On the whole I had a very immersive and enjoyable experience with Until Dawn. I know the newest Resident Evil came out in late January this year but I would argue whether we need that franchise to return to the playstyle of the early games when Supermassive Games did a great job of putting their own spin on an interactive horror experience here. I hope that Supermassive gives Until Dawn another go around in a sequel at some point in the the future as I'm eager to play more once the credits have ended (Rush of Blood doesn't count).
|From Software's blood-soaked action RPG |
that sees your hunter pitted against
numerous beasts in the grim streets
of the gothic city, Yarnham
This title was something I couldn't stop describing to my friend recently as he drove both of us home from Aysgarth Falls in North Yorkshire, such is my fondness for this highly atmospheric title. The newest original IP from Japanese developer From Software, the Victorian England-like Gothic setting of Yarnham is perfect for this action-RPG that sees you play as a hunter, out to clean the land of beasts over one very demonic and blood-filled night.
Familiar with the action-RPG formula by this point with Demon's Souls and Dark Souls 1 & 2 under their belt, game director Hidetaka Miyazaki and his team fully embrace the dark and Gothic with Bloodborne. Fantastically atmospheric and full of nasty surprises and creatures hiding in the darkened alleyways, sewers, halls and bridges, Bloodborne allows players to lose themselves in the world of Yarnham. There is also a great variety in the game's areas with woods, villages, graveyards, chambers, a looming church high above Yarnham and even a snow-laden castle. The game's DLC provides even more variety with areas both bloody, nightmarish and captivating in equal measure. Its a fantastically designed and interconnected world that begs to be explored.
Developer From made significant changes to the player's movement and combat mechanics too. Gone are shields and instead hunters brandish a trick weapon in one hand (weapons that can change into an alternate form) and a gun in the other. Players are encouraged to manouver and dodge around their opponents, landing a counter strike with their pistol if they catch the enemy at the right time. They can then move in for a finishing blow that sees your hunter plunge their hand into the enemy's chest, then tear it out of their side. This allows a small recovery of health, is as satisfying as it sounds and is very much welcome given the variety of beasts and bosses you face. They are a sight to behold and are both frightening and challenging in equal measure.
If you get tired of taking on the hunt alone the game allows you to summon a co-op partner with the use of a bell item in your inventory (be careful though as the game summons a bell-ringing woman that must be found and slain, otherwise your game could get invaded by another human-controlled hunter). It mixes things up nicely and could be just what you need to get past that difficult boss that you just can't best on your own.
Apart from the framerate very rarely dipping there is very little to dislike about Bloodborne. A superb setting, great atmosphere, involving gameplay and an incredible land to explore with interesting paths to open and discover. If you haven't played it yet definitely try this title out at the next available opportunity.
Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami's
latest survival horror title.
It'll mess with your mind, happily.
The Evil Within
The latest title from the original creator of the Resident Evil games, Shinji Mikami, The Evil Within aims to provide players with a true horror experience once more. Initially apeing the control style of Mikami's last foray into his famed franchise with Resident Evil 4, a couple of hours with the title will quickly show players they are in for a truly unique and disturbing survival horror experience,
Detective Sebastian Castellanos and his colleagues Joeseph Oda and Judi Kidman are called to Crimson City's asylum on hearing of a reported massacre in the asylum's foyer. When they arrive there are numerous police cars parked outside and they enter the asylum cautiously. As they walk among the bodies of what appear to be slaughtered patients and staff, they find a resident doctor named Marcello Jiminez who is still alive. After a brief discussion Sebastian ends up checking the security footage nearby. Here he sees three officers seemingly be killed by a figure who teleports between gunshots, then before he knows it said figure appears right behind Sebastian who is then knocked out cold. When he awakes he finds himself hanging upside down with a butcher hacking up corpses nearby. After escaping, being chased and consequently being cut by said butcher's chainsaw, Sebastian manages to escape, reaches for a cigarette which is both sodden and crumpled before throwing them to the floor with a disgruntled "fuck!" Fade to black (and that's just the game's introduction!)
Although players may feel The Evil Within takes the RE4 template and runs with it, thankfully there are enough gameplay changes to make it feel different enough to the former series' famed entry. RE4 had its fair share of tense and horrific encounters but The Evil Within does a superb job of ramping this up even to even greater levels. Each of the game's chapters feels like they are dropping Sebastian into another nightmare with little respite. Thankfully there are areas in the game and the asylum where Sebastian can take a moment to breathe and also power himself up through what appears to be a dentist's operating chair with headgear attached that plugs right into his brain. Vials of green liquid can be found and used to power up his different faculties including sprinting, stamina, weapons, health and oddly the number of matches (don't ask me why. Plus, you'd think a smoker would have a lighter anyway).
In the game's early chapters Sebastian gains access to a variety of weapons including the agony crossbow. This aptly-named weapon allows the player to create different types of bolts from resources found around the environment. These vary from standard bolts that can stick enemies to walls to fire, ice, electricity, blinding and explosive bolts. It allows the crossbow to be both a useful and varied weapon, useful for crowd control and boss encounters alike.
Not only are the weapons varied; given how the game unfolds players will encounter a variety of locales including castles, laboratories, an estate, Crimson City itself and more. The design team are a twisted bunch of individuals as the creatures that appear in the game are not for the faint of heart. From ogres to possessed humans, faceless monstrosities, huge clawed creatures and the bizarre Keeper who has a safe for a head, The Evil Within has a multitude of beasts and monsters out ot help Sebastian meet his maker.
Even though the game becomes more action-heavy towards its conclusion you are very much in a survival horror setting throughout. This comes recommended to those who longed for Resident Evil to move away from being the game version of a Michael Bay film with RE6. I hope Tango Gameworks and publisher Bethesda will announce a sequel is in progress at this June's E3 show in Los Angeles.
Alright that's the first part of my Games I played in 2016 round-up. I will post soon on when parts 2 and 3 will be available to read. I may also post shorter pieces of game and entertainment-related news in the meantime. Thanks if you've taken the time to read and feel free to share, subscribe, like and comment on in the Comments section below or on your chosen social network.