When we thought there’s nothing more for Night City Wire to show us, they brought out the big guns: Johnny Silverhand himself, Keanu Reeves. Throughout the next half-hour, we go through the episode about the man, the legend, the most breathtaking game character in history. It’s also the final episode of Night City Wire, so strap in for a wild ride.
As promised, Johnny Silverhand makes an appearance in the eponymous trailer. It is revealed that his participation in this game is akin to Handsome Jack in Tales of the Borderlands: a ghost of his former self that aids protagonist V in their journey to elude Arasaka Corporation. It shows Johnny’s anti-hero personality ranging from a sarcastic rogue to an inspiring rebel. What follows is a breathtaking interview with the man himself, Keanu Reeves.
The Face and The Score
The music is what brings the game to life from an audio perspective. In fact, as seen in games like The Last of Us 2, sound and score brought the emotional heart home. Cyberpunk 2077 moves away from its eighties roots and updates it with a “nineties flair” from a combination of electronic music and a musical “color” that fits its dark, gritty, and industrial genre. There will also be a feature to disable licensed music for livestreamers and content creators, which should be good news!
Jali brings to life the facial technology used in Cyberpunk 2077. What makes it stand out is how it adapts to the translated language this game features in. They don’t need to redo the animation to match the translated language.
The Wait Is Worth It
CD Projekt Red promises a series of in-game rewards and swag for all that wait. Also, a final gameplay trailer is revealed to double down on how big and immersive this game will be and it looks freaking fantastic.
Cyberpunk 2077 is out on December 10, 2020 (fingers crossed) on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X & S, Xbox One X & S, PC, and Google Stadia.
Sonic The Hedgehog and failed consoles are the first thing that come to mind when I think of SEGA, however Yakuza or Ryu ga Gotoku don’t really follow a close third as it lives in its own stratosphere. However, in an interview celebrating SEGA’s 60 years in the industry, Yakuza producer Daisuke Sato expressed interest in “getting involved” in a Sonic the Hedgehog game. How funky would that be?!
Besides Sonic, it’s pretty difficult to think of another IP that carries the same weight with the company as much as Yakuza at the moment, with its newest installment Yakuza: Like A Dragon being released internationally on November 10th. Featuring a wide open world with SEGA Centers featuring fully playable arcade games such as Virtua Fighter 5, Outrun, and the infamous UFO Catchers that you can literally spend thousands of yen acquiring a damn Bun-chan. It goes to show that the IP waves the SEGA flag as strong as ever.
“It’s an IP that I haven’t come to before. In the sense that I want to try it… well, Sonic,” said Sato. “Anyway, when you hear SEGA you think Sonic. I’d like like to get involved once at least.”
Personally, with Yakuza‘s bombast and endearing over-the-top outing with new protagonist Ichiban Kasuga, our recent review of Like A Dragon called it “an enjoyable JRPG experience with a layered story that exudes an off-beat charm and humor”. I’m excited to see what Sato, his buddy Toshiro Nagoshi, and our friends at Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio comes up with.
If they do come up with a Hedgehog Cabaret Club Grand Prix, I’m totally sold. If it has another damn baseball mini-game though, I think those should stay in Kamurocho.
Our review format is not your usual fare and we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings!
“Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above.
“Wait for it…” means that the game probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point, we suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10.
“Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future, unless you want to intentionally hurt yourself. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.
Release Date: November 10, 2020
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One X|S, Xbox Series X|S
Genre: Urban Fantasy JRPG
Similar Games: Yakuza series; Persona 5
Price: Starts at PHP2,495
Yakuza: Like A Dragon is the eighth mainline installment in the long running Yakuza or Ryu ga Gotoku series of games hearkening back from 2005. With the inclusion of Judgment, their parody side stories like Yakuza Dead Souls, and their reskin of the Fist of the North Star, it’s an understatement to say that this series is huge in its own right. Personally, I felt the series creator Toshiro Nagoshi took what worked in Yu Suzuki’s Shenmue and built on it to create this gigantic franchise.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon, or Ryu ga Gotoku 7 in Japan, departs from its open world brawler genre to take a classic Japanese RPG approach akin to Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. Also, long-time series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu bows out to have the new protagonist Ichiban Kasuga taking on a new chapter of the franchise. As a Yakuza fan and a long-time JRPG aficionado, it’s a match made in gamer paradise.
Kasuga is a low ranking Yakuza grunt who took a fall at the behest of his patriarch and served 18 years for a crime he did not commit. Coming out of jail, Kasuga expects to be taken back with open arms only to be shot by said patriarch. Homeless and disgraced, waking up in the Isezaki Ijincho Distrct of Yokohama; Kasuga joins a crew of misfits to clean up the mean streets as a self-made hero. As he gets back up on his feet and his legend grows, he longs for the day to return to Kamurocho and reclaim his place.
The off-beat nature of the game already got me going months ago after trying out the Japanese demo, whetting my appetite for more. However, I was cautiously optimistic for this title because of open world fatigue and how the recent iterations of the genre suffer from this most notably in Judgment.
There’s this sinking feeling that while I got a good two hours of gameplay from the demo, I was wondering when the novelty would wane and I was left with a tired gimmick that many JRPGs had succumbed to since the eighth generation.
Is Kasuga the Ichiban successor to the throne left behind by Kiryu? Or is he merely another pretender like Yagami and Kenshiro before him, seeking to keep the series alive now that we’re sick of their repackaged mini-games that have not changed since the first Yakuza?
I Grew Up On These Streets
As an avid fan of the series, I’m always excited to see Kamurocho grow throughout the times. From the decadent Babylon they’ve built in Yakuza Zero, to the gentrified mess it is today, Kamurocho still maintained the same blueprint that it feels like a part of town you’ve grown up in. So when I booted up the game to Kamurocho on New Year’s Eve, December 31st, 2000 – I was excited because it was five years prior to the legend of Kazuma Kiryu and you get to see the town in renovation. Check out my Walking Tour for more details!
Continuing the story, the prologue details the two biggest character forces. On one hand, you have Ichiban Kasuga, a failure of a Yakuza because of his insistence of doing community service rather than actually doing his duties as an enforcer. On the other side is the tale of a washed out crime boss Masumi Arakawa, Kasuga’s patriarch and father figure. As seen in the plot summary above, you know it’s not going to go down well and we get a blow-by-blow account on how it happens.
I appreciate how the story unfolds between the two and you get a clear picture of the characters. You get to know them right away and empathize with their struggle. Also they foreshadow story arcs that would continue later on, which is the strongest points of the franchise’s storytelling. However, just like the previous franchises, they overstay their welcome quickly and I wished they could just pace the dialogue better. It’s not aiming for high art like The Last of Us 2, so they could’ve just cut it by half.
When Chapter Two unfolds, the best part of how the prologue ends is a stark comparison of the Kamurocho of Old and its contemporary. Kasuga becomes a man out of time and we can sympathize with his lack of knowledge of modern trends, and his personal frustration and loss at the betrayal he encounters. Now if we could just have that in twenty words or fewer, could we just skip all that J-Drama nonsense and move on to bashing heads? Preferably with fewer loading times?
The JRPG Is Strong With This One
Thematically, the entire personality of Ichiban Kasuga carries the organic unity of this piece. I really find it ingenious that they chose a dying (or dead to some people) genre to revive in order to tell his story. As explained before, Kasuga grew up on the Dragon Quest games, hence he sees the world as one big Dragon Quest sim. It’s also fitting that the gaming world has moved on to Monster Hunter and here we have Kasuga still raving about his JRPGs.
As laid out in my First Impressions, the biggest improvement this battle system had to other JRPGs is the use of positioning. The only other JRPG that mastered this is Final Fantasy VII Remake. Depending on where you stand, your success in battle could be improved or reduced on how you manipulate your environment to suit your needs.
You could edge all your opponents in one cluster so your party can deal AoE just by splash damage from their attacks. Your party members can act like walls preventing your opponent from reaching your healer. Environment items can be used against your opponent or against you if you find yourself in the proper area in the proper time.
Battle commands such as skills are also dynamic as you could increase the damage output by following the command inputs onscreen. You either could mash a button or hit a well-timed strike for more damage. Perfect Guard could be used by pressing the O (or the A button in Xbox) at the right time to either dodge an attack or reduce damage taken from conventional ones. These commands can be used during Auto-Battle, allowing for a dynamic flow that cuts through the tedium that of classic JRPG randomized fights.
Also what was amusing was that those “story missions” from the original Yakuza are now dungeons in this iteration with a save point waiting in the end before a change in setting or a boss fight. Treasures are all around and it’s quite a fun throwback to the JRPGs of old.
The Measure of A Man
Throughout the journey, Kasuga Ichiban grows as a character through his Personality. It is akin to the Social Skills in Persona where their personality type can affect changes in the gameplay both in battle and in interactions with NPCs. In fact status effects are affected by your personality gauge. For example, high charisma allows you to convince opponents to leave you alone and give you an item for good measure.
Personality is divided into several types: The aforementioned Charisma, Intellect, Kindness, Passion, Style, and Confidence. They could be increased through using growth items and through dialogue options encountered in both the Main Story and Sub Stories, similar to how it is earned in Persona. As you progress later in the game, you will have access to a vocational school where you could increase stats for a hefty sum and requires you to pass various exams or complete the challenges in Part Time Hero.
The Job System is a literal interpretation of the Final Fantasy job/class system. You have to qualify and apply for these odd jobs and you earn skills and exclusive equipment that you could use in battle and in your exploration. To qualify for these jobs, your personality traits must be of a certain level. Thus, you have a Character Level and a Job Level that expands your repertoire and your contribution to the main team. Other Player Characters have unique jobs the same way only Kasuga can be a Yakuza, Deadbeat, Freelancer, and of course Hero.
The great thing about the job system is that while it is in some ways a parody of JRPGs in general, it changes up your play style on the different strengths and weaknesses of said job. While a bodyguard class is focused on its tank capabilities, musicians are support classes, while breakdancers (breakers) use the fighting style Majima had in Yakuza Zero. It stretches much of the source material without making it feel forced, plus thematically, you’re dealing with a bunch of unemployed geezers looking for work so it’s not too much of a stretch to add this mechanic.
Non-JRPG gamers have always wondered what the appeal of the JRPG is and personally, it’s this unique way of interactive character development. What I loved about Persona is how they’ve expanded on this sub-category through their Social Skills and Social Links. I liked what the Yakuza series has done to explore this category in JRPGs.
A lot of effort has been made to curb the stigma of what players have complained about JRPGs regarding outdated mechanics such as save points and grinding. Save points only exist in dungeon levels and once you’re out on the streets you could save anywhere, giving veteran gamers a taste of the good old days.
Player characters getting knocked out does not result in lost experience this time around, so support classes need not worry grinding extra hours due to lost experience from bosses and rare enemies. Though if Kasuga is knocked out, you lose half your money on hand. So keep banking that hard earned cash, you’ll need it.
I find that many recent JRPGs attempt to reinvent their combat mechanics, but Yakuza: Like a Dragon has kept it simple and conventional but added some subtle differences. Take note developers, this is all you really have to do to get our attention. Give us the same conventional combat, but tweak it a little so it feels fresh. Focus more on the character development and the leveling system, because I find that it becomes its own reward, transforming it into an addictive mechanic.
It’s Dangerous To Go Alone!
The one thing when playing the previous Yakuza games was the fact that you mostly just got the point of view of Kazuma Kiryu with some exceptions like Goro Majima in Yakuza Zero and Yakuza Kiwami 2. With Yakuza: Like a Dragon, you’re able to control not only Kasuga but a complete party of misfits.
Each character could be equipped and each character has their own unique job type, thus giving them varied and diverse moves. You first get Adachi, a disgraced detective to join you as early as Chapter Two and has some tank capabilities. Nanba, your first permanent party member, is a former medical practitioner turned homeless because of a shady backstory. Saeko, a bad ass bartender investigating her boss’ suspicious death, has some sweet DPS skills.
Once you have your party set up, you can take full advantage of your positioned attacks. Enemies clustered together could be taken out by one of Namba’s AoE attacks and tanky enemies could be set up with Saeko maximizing your DPS. Also each character has a unique passive ability such as Namba who regenerates MP, which makes him versatile being support or AoE magical hobowhen necessary. Once you have developed a deeper bond with your characters, Chain Attacks can be set up depending on the positioning, therefore your offense doesn’t need rely on you wait for the next turn.
In the middle of Chapter Four, after completing a certain sub-story, you unlock the Poundmates app (it’s as bad as it sounds) and with it, you could unlock summon commands where you call a previously defeated opponent that let’s you deal damage, status effects, and support depending on the character. However, while it’s free to summon on your first try, it costs money to summon these guys. Save them for a worthy opponent or keep farming that yen. Everybody’s gotta eat.
Isezaki Iijincho will not replace Kamurocho by any means, but it’s a great place to grow. After all, after enough iterations, Kamurocho does tend to get stale. I found that during my Judgment run, after five chapters, I wanted a change of scenery. Yokohama’s underbelly isn’t pretty, but it has its own charm similar to how Hiroshima was tantamount to building Yakuza 6: Song of Life‘s story.
The map is huge, bigger than both Sotenbori, Kamurocho, and Hiroshima combined. Exploring the town is recommended as you can hunt for treasure, discover new restaurants, and activities galore. However, make sure you raise your Personality a little, some challenges and features are behind a social barrier. Yet what this game doesn’t lack in is content and activities, you’re sure to increase your stats with extra radiant quests generated by Part Time Hero unlocked at Chapter Five.
When you unlock Survive Bar, your hangout spot, you can build a Bond with your characters through Party Chats, Battle Experience, and Table Talk. It is a much simpler mechanic compared to Social Links in Persona.Table Talk is similar to the Chat minigame from Yakuza 6: Song of Life where you listen to your party members’ woes and you gain personality points and bond level.
Character Bond adds extra benefits when it comes to battle and exploration, such as attack follow-ups and extra experience earned when not in the main party. Also when other characters need to change jobs, the higher tier jobs are unlocked by the bond level you’ve built alongside their Character Level. So when a character wants to spark up a conversation through party chat, let them and listen all the way until the end.
When you are about to level up a Bond Level, you invite them to a meal, a drink, or an exclusive character quest to escalate your relationship further. Once your bond has been maximized, not only do they gain more experience when they’re not in the party, you also gain access to Tag Team Attacks as well. They are combination attacks similar to Chrono Trigger, which use up a considerable amount of MP but you’re rewarded with a funny cut scene and more damage.
Just like the characters, Yokohama grows on you. They’ve improved on exploration quite a bit in this iteration using mechanics that worked in Judgment and Fist of the North Star for good measure. You can avoid or pursue randomized battles as foes are shown on the map. Plus, fast travel can now be accessed on the menu with your Taxi App, but you still have to pay extra for the fare.
Depending on the current mainline quest activated, you could almost access every part of the map to treasure hunt, eat at restaurants, drink in bars, shop in boutiques, and play mini-games. However, don’t explore too far, enemies five levels higher than your own can introduce you to a world of hurt. Stay away from Koreatown for now, you can find your BTS merchandise elsewhere.
Is Kasuga The Ichiban Choice?
There’s something undeniably endearing with Ichiban Kasuga as a character. He’s an underdog who’s been beat down throughout his life, but will stop at nothing to live his truth. I don’t know about you, but I connect with this character. By pretending that life is an RPG and seeing that you’re a chosen one by your own standard; if it balances out your mental health, why not? However, if that puts ideas in your head to start beating passersby for experience points and extra cash, well that’s obviously when you draw the line.
I feel that unlike many heroes’ journeys in games and in comic books, it’s really difficult these days to relate to a “paragon of justice”. It’s much easier to connect to the every man, the anti-hero, the rando. Kasuga is that and more, because no matter how beat up he gets, he remembers where he’s from and the people who have made him who he is today.
Compared to a catalyst character like Kazuma Kiryu, Ichiban Kasuga embodies a definitive protagonist. He’s not perfect and with that you feel his personal stake in the story. Kiryu is a type of character that feels that he can conquer anything and anyone with his demonic strength.
In a way, now it feels like a real Yakuza story because Kasuga has more to lose when he hits rock bottom. He carries a certain level of humility that equates him to the player. These traits are admirable and will get you through the slower areas of the game when it comes to story.
Novelty or Gimmicky?
Like every Yakuza game before it, momentum doesn’t really pick up until Chapter Five. Until then, be prepared for an exposition dump unlike the other Yakuza games. I understand why the massive setup, these characters are new and they need to give the audience time to allow them to grow on you.
However, we’ve seen in titles like Yakuza Zero where characters are introduced efficiently through a few good scenes. Kazuya Kiryu is introduced roughhousing another gang member but is shown as a loyal friend and chinpira. Goro Majima is introduced as this charismatic Cabaret Club manager who hides his disdain through a mask of cunning. They were some of the best introductions in gaming storytelling seen; while I wouldn’t count out Kasuga and Arakawa’s introductions as stale, they weren’t as efficiently presented.
Truth be told, once you get going, at least for the first 40 hours, the momentum is magnetic and I was hooked on the new battle system. New mini-games have been introduced and there’s no obligation to play them unless you want their specific rewards. Each mini-game doles out their own currency and you could buy rewards with currency earned from that. Unless you’re gunning for a platinum, these mini-games are completely optional and you don’t need to pursue them to complete the story.
One small hiccup is that they combined my much beloved Cabaret Club Grand Prix and the Real Estate Business Management mini-games from Yakuza Zero into a Business Management mini-game in Like A Dragon with somewhat mixed results. I loved how they’ve improved on the Cabaret Club Czar into the Grand Prix version in Yakuza Kiwami 2, and I feel it’s the best part of that game hands down.
The business building aspect is more challenging than Yakuza Zero, but I felt that they could’ve used the format of the Cabaret Club Grand Prix better. While I understand that the series needs to “keep up with the times”, they’ve used parts of the Cabaret Club for the Shareholder Meeting showdown part and it felt forced. It’s almost as if they needed to match the past “feature” mini-games of Yakuza into one aspect, but they could’ve just improved on the Grand Prix and even added more layers to it and personally that would’ve been a more welcome addition.
The Can Quest mini-game was loads of fun though as it involves a Destruction Derby style game where you ride your bike and collect cans. You collect boosts and try to crash into your rival collectors to steal a bit of their stash. It’s like a 3D Pacman with aspects of Burnout thrown in for a laugh.
I’m relieved that they removed the level gain from the Challenges Quest present from the original Yakuza games. I feel that the more you complete said activities, you get stronger easily, but really takes a toll on your Open World Fatigue. Instead, they’re there to increase your Personality, but you don’t need an epic level or gear to beat the game. As said before, the mini-games are there if you want trophies or to get gear. Also you could grind mini-games like in previous games to farm money quickly, but it gets boring restarting the game to maximize your RNG.
When you think that Yakuza doesn’t get any more bizarre with their sub-stories and mini-games, I think this iteration has taken the cake on the limits of strangeness. There’s this mini-game where you try to stay awake in a film only to be attacked by R.E.M. – Rams, pushing you to fall asleep. It’s quite the stuff of nightmares. Plus you refer to your assailants as “Sujimon” and collect them in a compendium called the “Sujidex”. At this point, nothing could surprise me with this franchise, so I just accept it and laugh.
There is a point where I ask myself why I like this game because of the cognitive dissonance experienced when these bizarre sub-stories and mini-games happen. They border between downright offensive and truly endearing. However, it’s just so over-the-top that you just accept it and move on, and it’s just from the warped minds of Nagoshi and friends.
There was this sub-story where we meet Gondawara and his goons last seen in Yakuza Kiwami 2 who has a particular kink of role-playing as infants. After defeating them in battle, they proceed to give child rearing advice to an overworked salaryman who’s a new father, speaking from the point of view of an infant. While it strangely tugs on heartstrings, they push the envelope even further when they invite Kasuga to chug down baby formula like it was premium shochu. It just has to be seen to be believed.
To answer the question I initially asked, how you get sick of the novelty will depend on you. Forty hours into the game, I’m still amused by its off-beat charm. Kasuga is a relatable character for gamers of a certain age and a certain passion group. Of course, it is niched as all hell, but I feel that the biggest strength of the Yakuza series is creating these ultimately likeable characters that grow on you. I felt the same with Judgment with Yagami and the gang warming up to you despite the hokey courtroom drama copied from Ace Attorney.
While much of the game’s extra features such as jobs, item crafting, garden tending, most of the mini-games including karaoke, Dragon Kart races, and bond building don’t open up until Chapter Five (some could be discovered in Chapter Four if you’re tenacious), I feel that the game eases you into such a massive and complex world. While they’ve mixed it up a bit and eased you in to soften the Open World Fatigue, it would be best to pace yourself and stick with the mainline quest and pick and choose from the activities provided. This way, you could ease on the overwhelm.
Finally, I feel that the game has tackled some issues quite relatable in this day and age. Job security, government support, self-confidence as you reach middle age with little or no achievements; the game tackles a lot of these topics either with humor pushing a message of hope that no matter where you are in life, you could still pick yourself back up. If Death Stranding was 2020 captured in a game, I’d say Like A Dragon is the 2016-2020 zeitgeist captured in game, all they need is reference to a pandemic of some kind to take it home.
What We Liked
Kamurocho evolving throughout the years but staying the same, it’s probably one of the most dynamic setting in video game history.
Seamless JRPG experience keeping the genre fresh and cutting tedium from conventional titles, ultimately blending the brawler mechanic with the JRPG aspect.
New Characters, especially Ichiban Kasuga, are charming and memorable and hopefully we see more of them in the future.
Job System and Personality Archetypes builds character both in stats in and in story.
The Challenge Quest is not tied with your level progress but with your Personality traits. It’s purely optional to boost up, mainly to score higher level gear and trophies, thus reduces Open World Fatigue.
What We Didn’t Like
Long story beats kill game momentum just like in previous Yakuza titles.
The loading times between those story beats kill the remaining motivation you have if it hasn’t already.
It takes until Chapter Five before much of the game features open up to the player.
Verdict: Buy It!
If you’re a fan, I wonder why you haven’t bought it yet and are still reading my review? Don’t let the JRPG schematic fool you, it’s still at its core a Yakuza game, warts and all. Will it redefine and revitalize the JRPG genre? I doubt it, I don’t think Final Fantasy can do it either. However, they took what worked historically with the genre and created something fun and quirky that can last you for hours on end.
While I feel that the storytelling could’ve been simplified a bit, the time spent on these characters will allow you to get to know them better and hopefully you’ll warm up to them given the chance. All it asks from you is five to eight hours of pure unadulterated attention to their long dialogue filled with exposition. Not many will get past this very dragging phase but after that, you have an enjoyable JRPG experience with a layered story that exudes an off-beat charm and humor.
Personally, the fact that the series is willing to change it up and not succumb to its real grievances in the past such as Open World Fatigue and Mini-game Stress shows that they’re not settling for less. Making them optional and allowing you to focus on character development is a step in the right direction by the Ryu ga Gotoku studio. Props to Nagoshi and friends, I can’t wait for the next one.
Yakuza: Like A Dragon just launched and as we are getting ready for our review, it’ll take us a little time to get it out because I keep getting distracted by nostalgia. The first hour of delving into the game takes us back to December 31, 2000, Kamurocho… about five years before the events of Yakuza or Yakuza Kiwami. We follow our hero, Ichiban Kasuga throughout a pretty weird point in Kamurocho history.
Yakuza Zero was a pretty decadent time in the 80s and as the city grew exponentially the next few decades, there was a lull in its cityscape prior to the construction of the iconic Millennial Tower. The Shangri-La still stands before the unforgettable showdown between Goro Majima and Kazuma Kiryu. And a few other landscapes where story points throughout the series took place. It was so old, they don’t have a branch of Don Quixote just yet.
Come check out our gallery of memories throughout its crazy seven mainline series run and if you include Yakuza Zero and Judgment, that’s almost ten games in the series where this setting has taken place. You probably know where all the good spots are and how they’ve changed throughout the years.
Seriously though, almost ten mainline games and we still haven’t eaten at that NY Hotdog place. They’ve put in Ikinari Steak, Gindaco, and Gyu Kaku but no love for the hotdog. Shame.
Our review of Yakuza: Like a Dragon will be out soon, as soon as we get out of this nostalgia trap that we’re caught in.
By the time you read this, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla will have already been released and our review of it calls the game worthy of praise, as it successfully fills the hole that Cyberpunk 2077 has left behind. Valhalla is a massive open world with tons of activities, enemies to slay, a settlement to build, and a dice game that rivals Gwent and Triple Triad.
Orlog, a minigame that’s introduced early on in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, represents a simple enough dice game between two combatants. No wager is made for this mini-game unlike the drinking games or the Flyt “rap battles” where you could gain or lose up to 200 silver on a terrible bet. What is wagered would be pride as an Orlog master. While high stakes mini-games in Final Fantasy VIII and The Witcher 3 really push their card games to soaring heights, I feel that Orlog is interesting enough to engage your attention while taking a break from the open world fatigue.
What Is Orlog?
It is a dice game that’s reminiscent of present day collectible dice games such as Quarriors or Marvel Dice Masters played like Magic: The Gathering, where you defeat your opponent by bringing their life down to zero. However, Orlog is much simpler than that with basic mechanics and the implementation of God Favor to turn the tide.
You and an opponent have a set of 6 six-sided dice (6D6) where in a round you would roll thrice to get the desired outcome. The faces of the dice are as follows: Axe (representing melee), Arrow (representing ranged), Helm (melee defense), Shield (ranged defense), God Favor (which is reminiscent of the above faces but with a God Favor modifier), and Thief Glove (representing steal).
Your goal is to reduce your opponent’s life from fifteen to zero, represented by Life Tokens. Every round, you roll the dice and with the results received, you calculate what’s remaining on your life tokens at the end of each round. The moment a player’s life tokens reach zero, it doesn’t matter what turn they are in, they immediately lose.
The game starts off with a flip of a coin to determine who goes first. Once that happens, thus begins the Roll Phase where whoever has initiative would roll their first round, select the dice they want to keep and defers to the other player. The other player does the same and passes it back. This happens a total of three times until each player has a set of six dice they’ve chosen or the Nornir have chosen for them.
God Favor Phase begins as each player could call upon a God Favor represented by the God Token on the board. The effects vary from damage dealing, healing, or damage prevention. One thing you have to note is the effects’ priority. A Priority 4 effect would occur during the succeeding phase (Resolution) and a Priority 7 would occur at the end of the round.
Resolution happens immediately, where both players collect God Favor tokens, damage dealing completes, tokens stolen from each other, and any remaining God Favor resolves. If both players still have remaining Life Tokens, the game continues to the next round. As I said earlier, the moment someone loses all their life tokens first regardless of the turn would immediately lose.
Just to reiterate, Helm blocks Axe, Shield blocks Arrow, Steal takes God Favors away from opponent and add it to you own (and vice versa), and if you’ve drawn God Favors, you get tokens to be spent on specific effects. If nothing blocks Axe and Shield, player receives a point of damage per attack unblocked. First one to zero loses. Got it? Good.
So it seems quite complicated and it took me a while to get the hang of it. One thing you have to take particular note is how you manage your God Favor tokens. You start off with Thor’s Strike, where you spend your tokens to deal direct damage to your opponent at the end of the round. So collect as much of them and then when you can deal as much damage as you can.
The first two rounds would be your opportunity to collect God Favor tokens. Whether you steal it or you gain it from your rolls, the goal is to collect as much as possible. Between 8-12 is optimum before using them. Right now, the moment you can deal 5 damage at a time with Thor’s Strike, it would be your best strategy. A good ratio on the first round is a 4 God Favor and 2 Steal. That way, if your opponent’s strategy isn’t determined by their accumulation of God Favor, you’re able to secure at least six this round.
In the second round, you have to be more strategic. If you’ve collected quite a bit of God Favors, your opponent might want to steal some of your stash, so you could counter their steals with some steals of your own. That way you reduce their capacity of casting powerful God Favors that come your way. At this point, you would probably have dealt between 3-6 damage depending on what you’ve rolled to accumulate said God Favor.
On rounds three and four, that’s when the skirmish begins. I would suggest to attack when you have initiative and defend (accumulate God Favor) on your off-turn. Shields block arrows and helms block axes. It’s simple enough. Whatever damage isn’t blocked, your life tokens will soak. While it is tempting to go for a greedy play and launch six axes or six arrows at the opponent, they could also be doing that to you. So mix it up by countering what you can and keep them guessing what your offensive strategy might be.
Rounds five to seven, maybe eight, is your endgame. At this point, if you’ve launched a conventional game, you would be reaching the end of your life tokens. This is when you launch your final moves, be it going for direct damage or a savage beat down of attacks. At this point, whoever has the best strategy wins.
May The RNG Be In Your Favor
To curb bad rolls, some God Favor effects actually work to your advantage. Ullr’s Aim and Vidar’s Might remove defensive measures allowing for your attack to go completely unchecked. It’s great to turn the tide of battle or gain a decisive advantage. You can equip three God Tokens at once and with that you can keep your opponent guessing what move you will do next.
As you progress through the game facing more challenging players, your God Tokens will vary. Heimdall’s Watch and Baldr’s Invulnerability become great sideboards when you meet tricky opponents with varying strategies. A direct damage opponent could be thwarted with Heimdall’s Watch as you could heal blocked attacks delaying your demise. While aggressive opponents who love attempting an overrun strategy could be thwarted by Baldr’s Invulnerability, blocking their attacks with a single defensive die.
You could also turn that around if you’re on the defensive by going on the offensive while blocking their attacks with a single defensive move on both ends with Baldr’s Invulnerability. The strategies just vary. Sometimes a well timed Thor’s Strike would end your opponent right away or a last minute heal with Idun’s Rejuvenation would extend the game beyond your opponent’s expected endgame, wasting their resources.
Low Stakes Enjoyment
I see Orlog as something to pass the time with when you’re feeling lazy to do the grind. I actually like it because most Open World games streamline everything into one big collect-a-thon where you have to do everything in order for you to “reap maximum enjoyment” from an Open World Game.
If the trends are to be believed, game developers are seeing the fatigue building up among their players and they’re willing to change that. Ghost of Tsushima allows players to just roam the fields and take baths in hot springs, reflect on life with haiku, and find pillars of honor to best represent their ideal warrior. There is a gamut of activity on Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Orlog is one way to cut through that fatigue and just take your mind away from your settlements, there’s more time for that later.
I ranked it as a top-ranking personal favorite with other mini-games in video game history because it subverts the high stakes expectations required from mini-games. Mini-games exist as a way to take a break from the main game that devolved into high stakes events to acquire endgame benefits. Games these days have become a second full-time job for many gamers, myself included, and we can blame Final Fantasy for that stinking pile of BS. Mini-games like Orlog returned to being actual breaks to help reclaim enjoyment from open world stress. 2020 is tough enough, we don’t need to create artificial stress to add to the craziness.
As a personal note to our readers, stay healthy, take care of yourselves, and whatever you’re playing– May your crits connect and your RNG be ever in your favor.
Our review format is not your usual fare and we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings!
“Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above.
“Wait for it…” means that the game probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point, we suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10.
“Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future, unless you want to intentionally hurt yourself. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.
Release Date: November 10, 2020
Platforms: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One X|S, PC
Genre: Open World Adventure
Similar Games: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, God of War (2018)
Price: Starts at PHP2,895
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is the new mainline entry to Ubisoft’s flagship Assassin’s Creed franchise of open world action/adventure games. For thirteen years since the introduction of Assassin’s Creed in 2007, Ubisoft have elevated themselves as a company that creates quality open world games following a specific and well-worn formula that guarantees the player a content-rich world filled with activities and an intriguing plot surrounding the forces behind the conspiracies behind our religions and ideologies. However, that formula has a downside, it has become repetitive and has stagnated in recent years.
The third of their “Antiquities” trilogy, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla follows suit from its predecessors Origins and Odyssey where the characters are set before the events of Altair’s Assassin’s Creed journey, as each adventure tackles the conflicting ideologies between the Templars and Assassin’s: Order Through Absolute Control and Freedom Through Regulated Chaos.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla continues the RPG-style progression and loot based collect-a-thon that started with Origins and further refined in Odyssey. Having completed both, I enjoyed the most recent titles as I’ve stopped with the original saga as early as Assassin’s Creed 2: Revelations, due in most part to the repetitive nature of the formula.
Completing Odyssey showed me the extent of the scale that Assassin’s Creed has reached since then. From the humble beginnings of the original Assassin’s Creed, which was at most a 35-40 hour run unless you want to complete everything to Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, which extrapolated that by a hundred-fold with the entirety of Greece to explore and conquer, playing the game left me exhausted 40 hours in and yet, I had to push to 70 hours just to complete the story.
Will Assassin’s Creed Valhalla take the same macrocosmic formula or do they have enough surprises for us to keep us motivated for dozens of hours of content? There will be no story spoilers here, so read at your own leisure!
Hello Again, Animus
Similar to Odyssey, the game opens up with options of difficulty levels and game settings. I chose Pathfinder for Exploration, easier combat, and normal stealth as I’m more geared towards exploring the open world and sneaking around my enemies versus that of a head-on battle. Just like Bayek, Alexios/Kassandra, and even Ezio before you, Eivor our protagonist encounters a deep personal tragedy, which propels their journey towards revenge. This level of difficulty customization is always welcome, as you can choose to tailor your experience to your needs.
Compared to the two most recent games, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla had the most compelling prologue. The game gives you a real close personal look at Eivor’s backstory, giving just enough time to paint a picture of what their childhood life was like before the aforementioned tragedy. Also, on point with Origins and Odyssey, the story starts off with a call to attention of the world’s mystical thread and greater forces that are at play while our characters live their carefree lives about to be interrupted by the threads of fade.
Once again, I appreciate that like in Odyssey, we don’t delve into the Abstergo backstory too much from the get-go. Returning present day protagonist Layla Hassan appears briefly only to let the player know that Eivor’s gender is the most fluid of all the protagonists we’ve come to know. You can choose to be Male or Female Eivor, but I let Animus decide what Eivor’s gender identity would be and correlated it with my own, which resulted in a female presenting character who I’ve modified to lean towards having their gender identity being male.
The game throws you into the open world right away, presenting Eivor in a seemingly helpless state, about to be sold into slavery. It is similar in how in Skyrim, the protagonist has been saved from the executioner’s axe when Alduin attacks their captors, but Eivor is presented with more agency that they save themselves from their doom. It’s ironic that the island where you’re captured resembled Kephallonia on the map and now you have to gather your crew and return to your hometown.
The game already encourages you to explore said island presenting you with a Synchronization Point next to your spawning zone and then encouraging you to use your avian companion to be your eyes. Using the Pathfinder difficulty, the game does not handhold you at all compared to previous iterations of such systems and they don’t even present the estimated distance of travel. Playing enough open world games in this lifetime, it’s a breath of fresh air to experience something different. A player with less experience in that regard should go towards a more conventional route of having more heads-up-displays present.
Unlike Watch Dogs Legion, the controls took quite a bit getting used to. Valhalla has to ease you back into your Assassin’s Creed legs and re-educate you on the combat system from Odyssey, which you’ve probably already forgotten unless you’re fresh from that game. Otherwise, you could still traverse the maritimes with the same naval controls from Odyssey, and you can even call a mount right away. It’s like you’ve never left Odyssey at all. However, I wished the controls could’ve been simplified much further to make it more ergonomic and intuitive, noting the Odin’s Vision mechanic that could’ve been pressed rather than held.
Briefly noting some software hiccups, there were a ton of bugs all around. Clipping glitches and frame rate issues plagued the scenes. Combat was choppy and loading times took quite a bit. Some quests were buggy, froze, and characters that I was meant to follow stopped on their tracks and I couldn’t finish the quest. All of this was pre-day one patch, so various fixes should be live by the time the public dives into the game. They’re not totally gone, so expect the experience to get better as more patches come in.
On a separate playthrough after the day one patch, we had child Eivor instead of their grown-up counterpart running around in Rygjafylke as if the elves kept them forever childlike. While I was amused by these glitches, some players might find it distracting to see a whale flying across the ocean, and Eivor’s not even on Fly Agaric (more on that type of mushroom later).
As I continued with the story, one thing that I found was that the first region Rygjafylke is most definitely the topmost tip of the iceberg. The world the game is about to show you is vast, and if you thought that Odyssey was huge, oh my sweet Mediterranean child, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has so many sights to show you.
The one point I noticed right away of worth is that exploration-wise, Valhalla has streamlined it to make it easier for newcomers to the game, but also makes it fresh for us veterans coming back for a third try. They break map progress down to three aspects: Wealth, Mysteries, and Artifacts.
Wealth is the accumulation of resources to help you acquire current equipment and upgrade their rarity. Major sources of wealth include Equipment and Ingots, which is the simplified loot system. The good news is, no more collection of useless equipment to break down into spare parts. I found that in the first twenty hours of Odyssey, I enjoyed picking up loot. By the time you hit hour forty, managing your inventory becomes a chore in itself and its own mini-game.
Bringing it back to the classic Assassin’s Creed system of a few choice equipment was a step in the right direction, but with the option of upgrading them to better quality items. Other sources of wealth include Raw Materials, Supplies, and Books of Knowledge, which we will discuss in detail soon. Each resource adds to your Wealth Bar by showing how many you have acquired from a region.
Mysteries break down all the activities you can partake in the game. World Event Side Quests are self-contained encounters in the game world where you could gain XP by aiding NPCs without it interfering with an ongoing quest. It’s seamless with the execution and you could continue to explore while pursuing it.
Minigames such as a rhythm drinking game, Orlog, a dice game that’s just as addicting as Gwent, and the infamous Flyting. It’s a rap battle minigame where you can build Charisma to unlock extra dialogue options.
Battle Challenges such as Lost Drengr and Legendary Animal Hunts await those who want to prove their mettle in combat. Save these challenges for later game as the power level requirement for them are quite high. However, even if you reach that power level, I’m sure they will offer up a challenge because as seen in the Artemis Hunts in Odyssey, they were quite epic.
Finally, Artifacts are the collectibles part of the game that used to just add flavor text and extra activities, but this time around they grant you cosmetic rewards such as chasing down Flying Papersfor tattoo designs and Roman Artifacts to be traded at a museum. Also the open world staple Treasure Hoard Maps also make an appearance to acquire schematics for your longboat.
At first, I felt that it was an unnecessary activity, it actually rewards me for said activities instead of just needlessly chasing after flags and feathers. Yet as I continued to scour the game, not all artifacts are collectible, such as Cursed Symbols which you have to destroy to lift the effects from cursed areas.
You Got The Touch, You Got The Power!
Power Level is how you measure your, for the lack of a better term, power level. Every time you gain new skills, your power level increases and you’re introduced to a Sphere Grid reminiscent of Final Fantasy X. You could specialize towards a Stealth(Raven), Melee(Bear), or Ranged(Wolf) based skill tree, which are separated into nodes that increase a base stat and main skills that power-up a combat mechanic or an assassination ability.
Just like the Sphere Grid system, once you reach the edges of each pod, it branches out to an even wider array of stats, abilities, and benefits. You could say that if you go through the Stealth Skill Tree, you only get Assassination damage and stealth bonuses, but the skills are dispersed so that you get a rounded off character but with specialization in that branch.
Melee branches still have some stealth and ranged bonuses, but if you specialize just in that branch, you’ll have a brawnier character. Just the same with Ranged giving your character an edge with projectile weapons and you’re a better assassin if you go through Stealth. Don’t worry if you mess up in your skill build, you can respec it at any time.
For Active Skills known as Abilities, you need to collect specific Books of Knowledge hidden throughout the world that add to your Melee and Ranged capabilities that use up an Adrenaline Point. You can bind the skills on specific command slots the same way you did for Origins and Odyssey. For me, this part felt a bit redundant as they could’ve just streamlined it all under “Skills” and the Books mechanic could’ve still existed but used in a way to unlock an Active Skills or evolve a specific Active Skill already acquired.
Seeking out Cairns and Standing Stones (akin to Origins’ stargazing puzzle) add additional Skill Points to increase your power and XP could be earned by almost every relevant activity you participate in your journey. I’m not a fan of areas with level requirements as I like pursuing every corner of the world at my leisure, but each area is so chock-full of activities, I feel that they’ve mapped it out enough that you don’t feel over-leveled coming back to previous areas. Though, you could sneak through high level areas and steal some high level rewards, just make sure you don’t start a fight.
Not Evie Frye’s England
I would have stayed in the Norway Prologue for another six to eight hours as there was so much to explore, so many mountains to climb, and so many more subquests to finish, but alas the story took me forward to England and thus my journey to Valhalla begins. After the first two hours, I assumed that Assassin’s Creed Valhalla could’ve been much of the same game as Origins and Odyssey were if I stayed in Norway doing mostly the same activities in the past games, but setting up my Settlement was a step towards a new frontier and it is arguably the biggest and best feature that Valhalla introduces.
Upon your entry in England, you’re tasked to build your settlement to aid in your Jarl’s conquest. The Settlement Building mechanics are akin to Dragon Age: Inquisition where constructing more buildings strengthens Eivor and your Raiding Party through the services provided by your settlement. That includes Smithing, Trading Post, Fishmonger, Hunting Lodge, Barracks, Stables, and Tattoo Artist to name a few. Much of the next seventy or so hours of you following Eivor’s journey is linked with the services built upon your little fief.
To grow your settlement, you need different forms of wealth such as Supplies and Raw Materials. Supplies like other resources could be collected in random treasure chests throughout the world. However, Raw Materials could only be collected through a successful raid as it requires another raider to force open both a cathedral door and a raw materials chest.
Raids are akin to attacking enemy bases such as monasteries where you lead the charge and summon your raiding party by blowing your horn. The best part of this feature is you don’t need to be actually raiding an area to call for one. If you need help with powerful enemies, call your crew and they will fight with you.
For those who loved the Naval Battles in Odyssey, Raids pretty much replaced that. I welcome that change because while I did enjoy building my warship, you could only use your crew during naval battles. Land missions became lopsided and infiltration missions tend to get prolonged and tiring. Having an army by your side could change that up a bit, so if you get tired of infiltration, you can start a raid and pillage that town with like-minded friends. Watch out though, because if you kill non-combatants, prepare to get desyncrhonized.
Building your Barracks allows you to manage your Raid Party and create your own Jomsviking lieutenant. While your personal Jomsviking doesn’t join your team, it’s a way to connect with other players of the game as they recruit said character and you earn their silver (as they earn yours by recruiting their Jomsviking). You can equip the lieutenant with gear that aren’t in use, maximizing your unused gear.
Once you build your settlement, you could take advantage of the diverse services your new allies have to offer. However, alongside your settlement renown, you need better friends with more power and influence and you could do that by pledging territories in your war room. Pledging would unlock area quests that opens up a new story thread for the game.
The difference between Territory Story Arcs and World Encounters is that the encounters are standalone subquests that end almost as fast as you found it, provided you complete the actual quest. Story Arcs are full-on sagas that span five chapters. Each chapter is relatively short and organically interlink with the world’s ecosystem. Once you complete said pledge and play your cards right and make sure you made the right story choices, you come back with a new ally and a new raid party member or two.
Speaking of equipment, I really enjoyed the crafting mechanic as it is an improvement over the equipment system in Origins and Odyssey. Ingots are crafting items that increase the rarity of your current piece of equipment. You start out with Carbon Ingots and it grows into a rarer grade such as Nickel and Tungsten the further you go. Upgrading your gear requires three of each and you’ll be kept busy collecting such a resource. Rarities, like in the older titles, still range from Common to Legendary, but they changed the nomenclature of such things, to keep it fresh. New eyes wouldn’t notice it, but I rolled my eyes when I realized what it was.
Resources have now been simplified to Iron Ore, Leather, Fabric and Titanium. They are used to upgrade your equipment for stats and also your containers: Quivers for Arrows and Rations for health items. Merchants will sell you these raw materials and basic equipment. They will also buy miscellaneous loot for Silver, the currency of the game that you use to wager on Flyt Battles and Drinking Games. Other items and services bought for silver: Horses and Training said horses from a Stable, and recruiting Jomsvikings.
Other pieces of loot and trade items could be delivered to your Hunting Lodge and Fishmonger. With that, they could reward you with silver and Runes, which you could slot into your weapons and armor.
By hunting Legendary Animals, you can earn a trophy for your quarters by taking said animal carcass to the Hunting Lodge.
What the game doesn’t lack is content and I’m sure as you explore England, you’ll find many twists and turns and fantastic surprises to your adventure. I’m just glad that many mechanics of the game are simplified to break tedium besides just adding more activities to distract you from said tedium. I feel that such overwhelm causes open world fatigue and I’m glad that the new features cut through that quite a bit.
My favorite addition is the Orlog mini-game. While in Gwent from The Witcher 3, you don’t really earn anything else by collecting the cards, you could still benefit from the gold wagered. Orlog mainly is played for the sake of the game, and believe me once you’ve tried it, you’ll be hooked. Watch out for my Newbie Guide for it coming soon!
Reclaiming Assassin’s Creed‘s Creed
One thing that I found missing from the Odyssey saga was the lack of reference to the Assassin Order. Origins touched on it quite a bit, but in Odyssey it felt like it was removed altogether. While I was open to the change, my biggest criticism of the game was it deviated from the lore established from the previous games to become a generic open world adventure in its later parts. If Layla Hassan didn’t make an appearance, I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between Odyssey and The Witcher 3.
Speaking of Layla, she could break from her Animus slumber and solve an Animus Anomaly puzzle in the world, which hearkens back to the memory fragment puzzle dungeon back in Revelations. I enjoyed the easter egg as well as a low dose of that past challenge. The difference is, it takes a few minutes to solve versus a thirty minute commitment back in Revelations.
What Valhalla did that stood out was they implemented the right amount of old school lore without it taking away from what the Antiquities saga have built in the last two games. It gives credit to how the game made a name for itself in the first place, but does not throw away the advances made by Odyssey and Origins. After seeing its execution on how they’ve married Odyssey’s system and lore with the original Assassin’s Creed mechanic, I welcomed this synergy.
If you’ve been following trailers and announcements for this game, it’s no secret that Eivor will receive the Hidden Blade missing in Odyssey (replaced by the Spear of Leonidas). While it came with all the benefits enjoyed by Ezio, Edward, and Evie alike, I liked that they nerfed it quite a bit. The moment you break from stealth a little, you could not just assassinate everyone in your vicinity. They’ve added quite a bit of specialized enemies who are impervious to your cheap tricks.
I appreciated that they brought back the stealth mechanics from the early game. What I enjoyed playing as Altair and Ezio was rifling through the crowd before emerging for the well calculated kill. Areas are now divided into Distrust and Restricted Zones. Distrust zones are a great variety from the standard restricted zones as you could utilize those mechanics to blend in with the crowd and get to your target faster. Yet, remember that you’re also a Raider, so if the going gets tough, blow that horn and burn that shire to the ground!
I like that you’re not penalized for breaking stealth or being forced into an infiltration mission for more rewards. While attempting perfect stealth is cool, the novelty has always worn off pretty fast and I’m glad that Valhalla recognized that. The game adapts to your level of play and I feel that makes it accessible to all kinds of players. Because even if you learn cool assassin rites you could still raid and fight head-on without being punished for it. You also don’t get punished for chasing after cats to pet them.
Combat has evolved in Valhalla as I did mention that elite enemies learn how to get around your cheap tricks. Though, to level the playing field, it’s a good idea to attack their weak points with a bow and chip away at their defense meter. Reducing it to zero will stun them giving you a window to instant kill with a Deathblow. The same strategy could be used for Lost Drengr and Legendary Animals, so it adds variety to the many ways to dispatch your adversaries.
To expand on Eivor’s spiritual journey, you could visit several altars in the game that ask for an offering, the one I found near Grantebridgeschire requires ten bull horns. You think I’m made of bull horns?! I can’t even get antlers to complete that random hunting request back in Norway!
Fly Agaric mysteries require you to solve hallucination challenges unlocked by a certain type of mushroom found in the wild. I actually found them by accident looking for edible mushrooms to fill my ration meter, apparently these ones get you lit.
Finally, without spoiling too much of the cooler surprises Valhalla has in store, do yourself a favor and get your settlement to Level 3. Build a Seer’s Hut and take a particular kind of potion. If you think the trip unlocked by Fly Agaric is intense? Wait until you see how deep into your psyche such an elixir would take you.
By combining what worked with the original Assassin’s Creed and the Antiquities Trilogy, Valhalla really stepped up in providing quite a fresh experience. It’s what the franchise has been missing. Sure, we get the same game with the same mechanics that we enjoy. However, personally I felt that it lacked that X-Factor present in Final Fantasy and what Nintendo fans see in their games. It’s that confidence to knowing that you will get the exact same game but with enough surprises to elevate your experience.
For The Veteran Explorer
The curse of the completionist is that we’re hardwired to collect everything before moving on from a spot. If I wasn’t dealing with a review deadline for this game, I would still be in Norway scouring the region for every ounce of wealth, mystery, artifact and whatnot so I could be satisfied that I’ve completed this region thoroughly. The Pathfinder Difficulty is a blessing in disguise because with the game not prompting you to commit to ALL the activities in your current play area. The map gradually reveals itself as I arrive at said area, which is a good thing for us completionists, because when the game says fetch, we run after it like a dog in heat.
For those cursed with the same quirk, I urge you to use the Pathfinder Difficulty to help you resist that compulsion. Of course there are some downsides to this difficulty: during investigative missions, clues aren’t automatically logged into your map and you would have to mark them manually. At my leisure, that would’ve been the perfect challenge as I like scouring the world for the smallest item. Little things like that brings me a lot of joy, it’s probably why I loved The Sinking City so much.
I also find that on several islands, terrain is straightforward and you could get to your immediate destination within moments compared to Watch Dogs: Legion where walking down a few blocks takes up a lot of your time. It reduces my use of Fast Travel, which I don’t like very much because it kills momentum from your exploration with its extended loading times. I could always ride back on my mount or longship down the River Trent with a dope soundtrack by your bard. Odyssey’s singing sailors got on my nerves after they sang that Keroberos song the 80th time. Your longship’s bard switches from their speorg notes to storytelling. If he can sing Volcano Man or some ABBA, it’d be perfect.
Unlike the previous games with endless radiant quests, the game intrinsically lets me know what I earn for that said activity, it’s not just an activity for activity’s sake. It ultimately reduces open world fatigue and allows me to enjoy the world instead of it just one becoming one big to-do list. Playtime will vary, of course, as is the case with these types of games, but expect upwards of at least 45 / 50 hours. It’s a massive game!
Screw that, I’m gonna catch some fireflies and release them over rivers and climb the highest mountain to get the best panoramic view mode for my best selfie for Photo Mode. Take that open world fatigue! You’re not the boss of me!
What We Liked:
Keeping the genre fresh by synergizing the best mechanics of the OG Assassin’s Creed and the Antiquities Saga.
Improved crafting mechanics does away with the tedium of repetitive collecting and dismantling of loot.
Pathfinder Difficulty subverts the open world expectation by allowing the map to open up gradually.
Settlement mechanic streamlines all activities into a well managed home base where all your hard work is up for display.
The story is up there with the Ezio Auditore saga and with the introduction of Location Arcs and World Encounters, it blends exploration and storytelling into an organic ecosystem.
What We Didn’t Like
While the Skill Tree additions are a nice touch, it could’ve been better simplified by streamlining Abilities into the same category.
It takes some time to ease into the controls.
Load times for fast travel could take a while, but could be different on next-gen consoles.
Various glitches and bugs, which includes clipping, camera angle mishaps, and interrupted quests that will take some patches to sort out.
Verdict: Buy It!
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is an excellent revision of the open world title from a franchise that is constantly seeking to revitalize itself. I feel that it is a step in the right direction for the IP and I believe that if they follow through with the changes that they’ve implemented moving forward, they can take steps in the direction that Final Fantasy VII Remake has done to elevate their genre but keep enough of the familiarity and charm that made Assassin’s Creed a widely popular title.
If you’re on the fence with Valhalla because of the notion that the Assassin’s Creed franchise is a copy-paste job from previous iterations, you’re not wrong, because I also came in with that bias before reviewing this game. However, color me surprised with what Valhalla has achieved and I actually enjoyed this game far more than I thought I would. It brought back some of that goodwill lost after Assassin’s Creed 2 Brotherhood and rekindled a bit of that excitement from Ezio Auditore’s era. While it will not bring back my original passion for this IP, at the very least, it has reconciled my hang-ups.
I commend the developers for streamlining tedious activities that plague this genre lessening the pressure to complete every activity and pushing back against open world fatigue. I could see the effort to bypass this by obviously learning and improving on their competitor’s games. The biggest achievement on why this is the most polished out of the Antiquities trilogy of Assassin’s Creed games is that they have reclaimed the franchise’s identity and how they’ve masterfully executed fresh ideas to create a perfect blend of old and new.
*Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla was reviewed on a PS4 Pro via a review code provided by the publishers.
With the release of its multiplayer offering entitled “Legends”, Ghost of Tsushima adds tremendous value to its package, offering gameplay that’s worth its retail price and much more. It might get too intimidating to jump into, but here are some sure fire tips to help you level up and get you prepared to tackle the newly opened Raid.
Disclaimer – This isn’t a guide for the raid, but rather a guide for you to get ready to hop into the raid.
Start Off Masterless
The assassin class is the most popular class, and rightfully so. Their DPS is unmatched and they look cool with their kitsune mask and murderous intent. For the sake of this guide, humor me a bit and let’s start you off with a Ronin. It’s a support class, and a great class that will contribute to the team just by their Ultimate alone. Breath of Izanami is a powerful ultimate that resurrects fallen teammates no matter where they are on the map.
Why did I start you as a Ronin? Because we’re going to skip the story missions altogether and go to Bronze Survival mode. Personally, I find the story missions boring and once you’ve completed them, they’re a chore to repeat. Also you get to only partner up with one other person and trust me, that person doesn’t want to carry you the whole three chapters.
Survival mode brings four players into four different maps and my favorite is Blood In The Snow. It is small in size and it’s easier to traverse compared to Defense of Aoi Village and Shores of Vengeance. If you’re like me who’s not blessed by the Gamer Kami, you’re gonna suck for a while and you don’t want to let your team down. At least you can revive them and they will appreciate you for it because there are just way too many assassins in this game right now.
Take this time to learn the mechanics and your play style. If you’ve completed the main campaign, you’ll notice that you only have one stance and every class has a strength and weakness. You’re not the perfect landowner Jin Sakai, and your teammates don’t care if you have a platinum. They just care that you’re not dead weight. So level up to Character Rank 5 so you can bind Soothing Breath on your Breath of Izanami. That way you can heal your teammates with your ultimate without waiting for them to die. If you have to choose between a stance, choose Moon Stance, because as the game progresses, most endgame enemies are Brute types.
Optional: Use A Samurai to Solo The Story Missions
So you really want that bronze trophy of completing the story missions? I suggest using a Samurai to Solo them. Samurais are self-sufficient warriors that can heal themselves with their Special, have a basic ultimate that targets creeps in your path, and an all-around hardy tank that can get you far. Once you hit Rank 6, unlock the Samurai class. Complete the Bronze Story missions and don’t look back; unless you really want those Kappa masks.
Get To Gold As Fast As You Can
Your next step is to push your Ronin to Rank 10 so you can unlock the Healing Incense special. Now you don’t have to waste an Ultimate to heal teammates nearby. By this time your Ki is probably 35, so step up from Bronze to Silver. The purpose of this is to quickly boost your character to Gold (75 Ki Level).
A Ronin can support most classes (including other Ronin) and staying on Silver will be a short ride if you played your cards right. You can even try to be fancy by adding Fire Breath to your Ultimate replacing Soothing Breath. That way your offensive contributions are now heightened.
This time learn how to spend your Survival offerings on Gifts to better support your team. Spirit animals like multiple dogs or a spirit bear are a great buy during boss fights. If you didn’t earn 500, aim for the 400 regeneration gift. Your party will thank you during those tough rounds.
You’ll probably nab a Legendary item because the RNG works in mysterious ways. Don’t disassemble this gear item the way you have done with your Basic, Uncommon, and Rare loot. Save them for later and don’t start modifying your gear until Ki Level 105, Honor doesn’t come cheap.
Get to Character Rank 20
You’ve hit 75 Ki Level, and trust me you’ll get there quick with how the Matchmaking works. Jump to Gold Survival and don’t be intimidated of “Any Ghost Death Will Fail The Mission” parameter. You can still be knocked out, but you now have a 40 second window to be revived. It’s reason #38 why I suggested you start with Ronin; your team needs you now more than ever!
Push your character to Character Rank 20 and don’t settle for any loot that’s not Epic. When you hit Ki Level 105, and trust me if you’ve been following this guide to the letter, it’ll be fast. Upgrade your gear including your Legendary for the bling.
Make sure you have some Burning quality attached to your ghost weapons. Dirt Throw and Healing Gourd have been great for me in my experience. Smoke Bombs work best if you want to switch to an Assassin later. With that, you can actually hold your own on Gold Survival without too much piggy backing. By the time you hit Ki Level 105, Gold Survival becomes a tad easier just like when you graduated from Bronze and Silver Survival.
Also, be sure to choose Quick Play. As you can easily join a session in progress during matchmaking where you can come into play as late as wave 21/25 and still reap all the benefits of that session as though you’ve been there from the start. I’ve gotten some cool cosmetic rewards by doing this without the effort, so it’s worth it, plus you earn Quick Play bonuses that’ll net you extra Honor, which is currency to re-roll your gear. Karma definitely works, some douchebag disconnected and now the Matchmaking Kami brought you and this party together. They’ll also thank the RNG Deities that a Ronin has come to save the day.
Switch to Another Class
You’ve been waiting for this. Now that you have some amazing gear and by this time, you have the skill and muscle memory to tackle Gold Survival with other players, switch to your DPS character of choice if you haven’t already. Now that you’ve gotten good and have the gear to show for it, do some damage!
If choosing a Hunter, it’ll take until Character Rank 11 so you can have Eye of Uchitsune target two more enemies with your Ultimate for better board clearing. The same strategy works with a Samurai to get Hachiman’s Frenzy, which is the melee Ultimate equivalent of the Eye of Uchitsune. As a Samurai player, I find that this is the meta compared to Heavenly Strike. I don’t recommend equipping two Legendary equipment as I feel that the meta involves you adding onto your Ultimate to elevate it further.
However, if you really want to play as Ronin, you can continue to play this way because they have some pretty cool class benefits like the use of Concussion Bombs. While there is an option that it could be equipped on Assassins as well, they’re the primary class for this type of weapon and since I can’t use a bow worth a damn, it has been my favorite ranged weapon.
Now that you’re not playing a Ronin, you’ll totally wish you had one in your team.
The Grind To Ki Level 110
If you want to be really Raid Ready, Ki Level 105 isn’t going to cut it. Here’s the Catch-22, you need Ki level 110 to be Raid Ready, but there’s no way you can just pick up 110 Ki Level loot as they’re locked behind Raid and Nightmare Challenges. That is where the conundrum lies, how do we get 110 Ki level gear?
Nightmare Survival is what the name implies. Every enemy faced is not your regular chump, they’re all Oni-class madness. From special Oni among the ranks of Tengu to Sukhbatter, it’s not a joke on how tough the enemies strike. It’s like fighting all 25 waves on a Boss Round. However, since the max loot given on Gold is 105 Ki Level and you have to actually clear a Nightmare Story or a Nightmare Survival to claim a 110 Ki level gear. There is no half-assing it and dying halfway to claim some booty or experience. You die, you get nothing.
So you can go that route of hoping that your teammates will carry you through the slog or you could go about it the grind way, which would be going through Gold Survival and earning enough Honor to upgrade your choice gear to 110 Ki Level. That’s at a minimum of 2500 Honor because that would include your Melee, Ranged, Charm, and both Ghost Weapons. It could get more costly if you want to customize it for all four of your characters. To keep it nice and fresh, grind them all up to Rank 20, you get a shiny silver trophy for it.
Make Some Friends Along The Way
You probably have paid your dues and countless players have you to thank for saving their ass and getting some loot along the way. Some of them would even remember you and add you on PSN to be part of their squad. This is good because there is no Matchmaking on the Raid. Hit up those old teammates and join those Raid and Nightmare missions with your squad. Then you’re on your way to claiming those Heroic Cosmetic Items to show off.
If you think you could solo a Raid, you can. However, it’s only to take photos for the ‘Gram. Sure you could take on all the creeps and Oni by yourself that guard the gate impeding your progress. To open the gate, however, you need three warm bodies to step on those damn switches. Unless you’re Naruto and can Kage Bunshin your way in, it’s impossible. So enjoy those Unlimited Raid Continues because it’s one big waste of time by yourself.
While I’m not a big multiplayer fan, I really enjoyed Legends even more than the base game. It might seem repetitive but the loot and how you collaborate with your team makes it worth it. I haven’t encountered any rude players save for that one team that kept asking me to disconnect because my Rank 2 Hunter was useless. I didn’t because they can’t kick me out nor can they let me die else they lose out on the loot. I eventually jumped to Rank 7 and got a Legendary katana in the process. (Now that I think about it, I was the rude player)
Trust me though, build goodwill with your Ronin and the Karma Kami will reward you ten-fold.
Kamurocho, is by its own right, a magical place that can go toe-to-toe with the Midgars and Mementos of the gaming world. Though not as explicitly ‘magical’ by all accounts, it treads the balance between urban fantasy and actual crime simulator that is as entertaining as it is exciting.
In anticipation of Yakuza: Like A Dragon’s release on November, if you’re itching for a Yakuza game that’s not like what’s available in the Kiwami remakes or the current iterations (Yakuza Zero and Yakuza 6: Song of Life), here are some variations to this subgenre of games.
Judgment – Yakuza,but With a Different Skin
Judgment thematically remains true to its core. However, the plausibility of their plot twists demand a lot of faith from their fanbase. The game promised us a side story that tackles the neutral ground in the crime-ridden world of Kamurocho. Yagami is a disgraced defense attorney turned private detective as he struggles with a tumultuous past and an impossible case that would not go away. When his former law firm hires him as an investigator to clear a Yakuza captain of being a suspect in a serial killer case, his past catches up with him as he digs deeper into the rabbit hole, spiraling deeper than he realizes.
The game starts out as an engaging crime thriller, it even has solid film noir conventions that hooked me right away. It felt like a scene out of Chinatown or even much more recently, Jessica Jones. Then we delve into the signature Ryu ga Gotoku minigames, half-baked detective mechanics, and superficial plot twists– and the promising hardboiled crime sim just turned into that long forgotten episode of Law and Order.
Everything feels much of the same. It is set two years after Yakuza 6: Song of Life and all the restaurants, arcades, and convenience stores are right there where you left them. The gym that Kiryu frequents is now a VR gambling den and drones are now the big thing the kids are into. Karaoke is out, but the batting center still remains, and you can still get easy money from mahjong (easy because you can reload it if you don’t win a lot of cash). Every thug in every corner still wants to kick your ass, but this time, cops will show up to break fights if your brawls last too long. Kiryu never had that problem, I wonder why Yagami does. There is a cameo from that Ohno mascot from Yakuza 6 and the bars still feature the greatest hits from yesteryear while you gain extra experience by consuming every item from their menu.
What makes it different from a regular Yakuza game? Quicktime chase events, suspect tailing and low-stakes evidence collection minigames. It does not have a Cabaret Club RTS, Base Defense MOBA or that Small Business Management side quest– but it has this Kickstarter-esque app that’s more of a needless expense rather than something fun to lose yourself on while avoiding the main storyline. Out of all the Ryu ga Gotoku games, this was probably the title that had me returning to the story as the minigames were not as inspired as the Yakuza ones.
I don’t expect the story line to any of the Yakuza games to be groundbreaking. In fact, Kiwami and Kiwami 2 felt like I was more into the side quests and Cabaret storyline (the Majima plot was better). Hell, even Yakuza Kiwami 2’s Base Defense story was more compelling than the actual plot. While Judgment started off strong, a series of convoluted misdirection set up a predictable mess of a climax. There were some good moments, but most of the major plot beats in the game felt like it could’ve been a DLC adventure for Kiryu or Majima to tackle.
My biggest issue for Judgment was its sheer implausibility. Yakuza got away with a lot of plot holes because of the fact that even if they’ve bypassed police scrutiny, it is because the events occurred within the underworld bubble. Cops don’t get involved because it’s Kamurocho, and that being established, we believe it to be true. The characters in Judgment aren’t Yakuza and they aren’t police. I’m no expert of the Japanese judicial system but through quick internet research, private investigators aren’t seen in a good light in Tokyo and seem to push the envelope in the legal grey area. Instead of just bending the law, the story attempts to make it serious, believable, and its characters “lawful good”. However, it just ends up relying on half-baked cop show tropes and courtroom drama cliches. They should’ve just made another Yakuza side story if that was the case.
Fist of the North Star Lost Paradise – Slow To Start, but Something Different
When I saw that the Ryu ga Gotoku studio created a Fist of the North Star game, I bought it without thinking. Fist of the North Star is something of a novelty that I keep falling for no matter my age or when I find it. It started with Sega’s arcade rhythm punching game in the arcade back in the day and it just oozed cheesiness. The anime aged terribly, but I would watch it either English dubbed or subtitled as a guilty pleasure. It’s akin to watching a Nicolas Cage film or Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. The Japanese dub takes itself way too seriously that it becomes unintentional comedy, while the English dub really leans into the cheese. It’s become more of a meme these days with the catchphrase Omae wa mou shindeiru (You’re already dead) being relatively known but not as overused as It’s Over 9,000!
The fact of the matter is, I love the Ryu ga Gotoku system and you mix it with Fist of the North Star, it’s almost like a match made in cheeseball hell. The game starts off right away with the showdown with iconic rival Shin, Nanto Seiken successor who gave the iconic protagonist, Kenshiro, the iconic seven star scars and stole his fiance in the process. Even casual fans like myself fall deep into nostalgia with the showdown and the game leans into the cheesy Hokuto Shinken assassination strikes followed by the over-the-top ultra violence.
However, around five chapters into the game, it becomes a tutorial slog. Most Yakuza games are quite slow to start, but they usually have a story point to keep us going. Judgment started off really strong with a redemption arc and a serial killer mystery that piques the audience’s interest. Yakuza Zero probably has the best opening for any of the Yakuza games introducing the iconic characters Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima. Fist of the North Star just slogs into tutorial territory, attempting to ease us into the post apocalyptic wasteland.
While the game is short (about eleven chapters, pretty much the same length as Judgment), the sandbox options surrounding the Wasteland feels half-complete and the novelty of making your enemies explode die down by the fifth chapter. It picks up with an entertaining bartender side mission and a half-realized Cabaret Club minigame (sadly perfectd in Yakuza Kiwami 2). While the exploration of the Wasteland seems to be a glorified fetch quest simulator, the designers could’ve done more with the actual world, but it’s really recycled Kamurocho copy-pasted into an uninspired desert world. My suggestion is, if you are a big Fist of the North Star fan and have plans to play Cyberpunk 2077, I suggest picking up the game now and finishing it before December 10th. Because by the time you’ve explored Night City and its own Wasteland, the world of Eden and post apocalyptic wasteland would look terribly incomplete.
The Yakuza Collection: The Best They Can Come Up Without Going Through More Dev
The first Yakuza game I’ve played was Yakuza 3 on the PS3. While I enjoyed the sandbox options the game had the offer, much of the lore has been lost as I’ve missed out on the first two games on the PS2. With everything that had to do with the crime genre being compared to Grand Theft Auto on the PS2, Yakuza was not exempt. If it was compared to Shenmue during the PS2 days before the brand fell by the wayside, I would’ve been more keen in picking it up. As a consummate sandbox enthusiast, I’ve also purchased Yakuza 4 and 5 on the PS3 waiting for the day to possibly play them. However, with all things, that too fell by the wayside.
It wasn’t until Yakuza Kiwami was offered for free on PS Plus that I’ve taken a new interest with the game and with that I perused all four PS4 properties right away (Yakuza Kiwami, Kiwami 2, Zero, Song of Life). When Judgment, Fist of the North Star, and Yakuza Collection also offered to satiate my fix, I picked the three titles up without question. And for the most part, while the remastered Yakuza 3, 4, and 5 were improved graphically, the gameplay and the story choices haven’t aged well.
Revisiting Yakuza 3 was a bit of a mistake straight after completing Yakuza 6: Song of Life. While Yakuza 2 Kiwami made significant improvements over Yakuza 6’s Kiwami system, Yakuza 6 still had some charm including the whole Hiroshima side story to keep the game going. Yakuza 3 pretty much ran out of nostalgia fuel quickly. By this time, all the basic offerings of Kamurocho have just been spent. I don’t want to play mahjong for easy money, I don’t want to play that damn baseball mini-game on any platform, I don’t want to go fishing, I don’t want to participate in races, I’m just done with mini-games. Combat has improved significantly over the years and returning to the rudimentary mechanics can be quite tedious. The story, while now that I have context with the lore, was almost copy-pasted in verbatim. While the remakes tried to make the story work by revising the script, as much as I enjoy Nagoshi’s campy screenplay, the melodrama does get old.
Yakuza: Like A Dragon is coming out in November 10th in North America and it’s out already in Japan if you have a Japanese PSN account and are fluent with the language. While there are existing titles that you may be able to purchase on sale, maybe hold off on spending that hard earned cash and just waiting for the actual title. They are fun on their own right, but sometimes it’s best to delay gratification for a better reward.
Like its distant film cousin, there is a lot of leeway that’s been given to horror games the same way most anime enthusiasts put up with the waifu and harem BS in JRPGs. Low budget horror-comedies like Peter Jackson’s Bad Taste and Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead have a massive cult following although for the mainstream viewer, these films probably won’t cut it. In the same way, I still hold on to old school Resident Evil’s controls and the buggy mechanics of The Sinking City because of its adherence to the Lovecraftian genre.
My take on all this is as long as the gameplay bugs and bad controls aren’t too distracting and even add a particular charm, then the game could be forgiven.
I’m a big fan of Deadly Premonition. It has this sardonic, tongue-in-cheek Twin Peaks vibe with some survival horror elements tucked in for good measure. Combat and driving aren’t its strong points, but the detective work and charm really wins me over. The same reasoning falls into The Sinking City’s current fanbase, who forgive many of its flaws to a fault. In a way, the game’s controls driving me crazy adds to the insanity that its Lovecraftian themes seem to impart.
You say toh-may-toe, I say toh-mah-toe
Games with bad design tests personal tastes and gamer thresholds. I’m a narrative driven gamer, hence I would take a walking simulator or a visual novel over a Souls game any day of the week. I replayed Oxenfree fifteen times just to see every permutation and dialogue combinations because the thematic unity of the game spoke to me. I’ve scoured through the original season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead because I loved Lee and Clementine’s characters even if Walking Dead continued to be a buggy mess. I’m willing to put up with it to go through Lee and Clementine’s scenes continually. My experience with The Sinking City forgives its unforgiving combat mechanic while another reviewer will call out its overall incomplete design.
One thing I can probably be objective about is where the gimmick ends and the game begins. The game can carry an intrinsic charm throughout, but how long could they sustain it before the game’s novelty wanes and we’re left with a jumbled mess? The shorter a horror game’s play length would benefit it entirely. I feel that Alien Isolation falls short with this one. While for the first five hours, the tense hide-and-seek can really work for the game but once you pass the eight-hour mark, that gimmick ends and I wasn’t motivated to play the game anymore. While Oxenfree’s playthroughs last between two to five hours, giving it enough for the player to get through the game and then once it’s done, it gives the player the option to continue the other permutations and dialogue combinations.
Resident Evil 2 is a good example of short bursts of playthroughs while the repetition of the campaigns only adds to its replay value. A playthrough would run between five to seven hours and then progressively get shorter once you memorize the pathways, giving the gamer enough time to experience the survival horror aspect and then go with speed runs and kill runs at their own pace. For narrative gamers like myself, we will push through the narrative until all the story points have been exhausted by its fourteenth to twentieth hour. For gamers who prefer performance, they would be more interested in conquering a game’s challenges. While the novelty of its nostalgia trip ends, we are left with a game that either has a good story or good gameplay.
Horror Games That Possibly Deserve A Second Chance
About twenty hours into The Sinking City, I’m strangely enamored by this game. Don’t get me wrong, after going through a binge marathon of Naughty Dog games made in the last decade – Uncharted 3, Uncharted 4, The Last of Us, and The Last of Us Part 2 – why am I giving it the same love and care and in fact enjoying this game a lot more than any Naughty Dog game? The combat system is frustrating, aiming is tough, and healing is also another matter. Sound design is all over the place, mixing up mood sounds and combat noises putting you on edge for no reason at all. Level design is copy-pasted, so most “dungeons” are recycled from the five we’ve grown accustomed to.
At first glance, it feels like shovelware created for trophy bait, and a former trophy hunter like myself will jump at it from the get go. Yet twenty hours in and I’m prioritizing this game over Dying Light. My recent deep dive into cosmic horror would be suspect, but I feel that the building blocks of this game has been set in place. It’s not polished by any means, and it’s not a game I’d recommend to most people, but any cosmic horror fan can find some love in this.
I would not pay more than $20 for this game for good reason, and I opted not to buy the DLC even if I wanted to continue scouring Oakmont for more eldritch artifacts and further delve into its maddening world. In fact, I would not recommend paying full price for any of the games I’m willing to tolerate and forgive for poor game design. However, if it comes on sale and you’re a big horror fan, it’s something to jump into.
The Sinking City
For the mess that this game is, it’s not love at first sight that pushed me to keep to playing this game, but it’s the learning how to play this game because I wanted to unearth the mystery that’s been imparted. The game is asking you to trust it, blemishes and all (and there are a lot of it), and for that it delivers on a darkly entertaining mystery game equipped with RPG elements and enough creepy crawlies found in Lovecraftian board games such as Betrayal At House On The Hill or Arkham Horror without gathering 3 to 5 like-minded people on Discord to play such a game.
Getting into the game is surprisingly easy and what really drew me in is the mystery solving elements of the game. When investigating clues and crimes, I enjoyed the Mind’s Eye mechanic as well as the deductive element of The Mind Palace. Questlines aren’t displayed on the map right away and you would have to research in-game, look for clues to look for the next step. It’s a breath of fresh air compared to games like Assassin’s Creed who handhold you to go to the next step and bombard your map with endless things to do. This game is short enough and keeps the to-do list light. If you want more things to do, the side quests are there to complete, but it’s not triggering your anxiety to do it.
The mood and the lore are finally what keeps you going for the long run. I feel that the huge games like Assassin’s Creed who keep dumping more side quests and extra stuff in the map can learn a thing or two from this game. The Sinking City knows when they’ve outstayed their welcome, it just gives you enough to enjoy and hopefully your experience wasn’t too excruciating to entice for a better made sequel.
Ten years ago, I found this game for $5 at a bargain bin for the Xbox 360 and added it to my achievement pile. Funny enough, if it wasn’t for my trophy hunting hobby, I would’ve skipped many games that aren’t AAA, but Deadly Premonition is one of those games that has that Shenmue/Yakuza charm that I could not explain at the time. The game gives me this Twin Peaks type of vibe with sardonic FBI agent Francis “York” Morgan investigating strange murders in rural America. He has weird quirks such as speaking to his imaginary friend “Zach” (his way of addressing the player), getting overly excited about the mundane, while its otherworldly horror setting does not faze him. The game has an open world feel, uncommon for a survival horror.
Combat elements are dated, the controls all over the place, and the driving mechanics are so frustrating that it could force any player to rage quit, yet I’ve stuck through the game that I forgot my actual achievement hunting quest! Years down the line, I was surprised that there was a cult following for this game and a sequel Deadly Premonition 2 came out in July. I picked up Deadly Premonition Origins for the Nintendo Switch and I remembered why I enjoyed the game in the first place. Funny enough, they kept the same mechanics that frustrated me as well, but it’s a nice nostalgic trip. Reviews have noted that Deadly Premonition 2 has some massive framerate issues and questionable creative choices that turn the story from awkward to just reprehensible. I would say to stick to the original for the charm and one can still forgive all its faults.
Given away for free on PSN this month and also a staple of Xbox Live’s XCloud experience, there was a lot of good going for this game. It’s no AAA game by any means, but it has the feel of a well-built RPG. The voice acting, scenarios, and even story points are well made and we’re made to feel welcome in its mood setting of WW1 England going through the Spanish Flu quarantine. While the only gaming issue I have is the auto-save feature making your choice permanent, which is annoying for a second playthrough because you either have to take notes to keep track of all the outcomes. The real frustrating thing with the game is how it’s written behind unstable code that boots you out of the game if you trigger a particular error. At least for the PS4, other than that, I feel that it’s a great game, quite possibly the best one in this list by far.
I remember this game from my trophy/achievement hunting days and funny enough, I actually played this game before I watched the films. In a way, I was reminded of this game while playing The Sinking City and it has the same elements I enjoyed from playing The Sinking City. The game introduced me to the man behind Jigsaw and how Saw is not all about torture porn as public consensus judged it to be. Maybe because I haven’t seen the films at the time, in a way, what the game does very well was show through every chapter how John Kramer thinks and the psychology behind his traps. While I played for the achievements, it didn’t feel like a chore because of again what the atmosphere and the lore imparted. Just like The Sinking City, the game does have the typical issues found in movie tie-ins with regard to generic level design and uninspired controls. However, the puzzles and the lore kept me going until I unlocked the full 1k gamerscore.
YIIK: The Postmodern RPG
This one is a hard sell, because as much as this game really tried, it really fell short in many of its mechanics and even on its main questline. I’ve been watching out for this game since 2016 ever since I saw it being showcased in SXSW Gaming. When it was going through QA testing, a personal tragedy struck with the creators and the game was delayed until the final product came out in 2019.
The charm and novelty was there for a good five to ten hours of the game until it wore off and we were left with a mess both plotwise and system-wise. I stuck through with it until the end, because as a whole it’s a love letter for the turn based JRPGs of old, Earthbound, old-school Shin Megami Tensei, and even Final Fantasy. Coupled with music composed by Toby Fox (Undertale) et al. and some cosmic horror elements (you’re probably starting to see a pattern here), I was able to pull through from the mess and saw it as a serviceable indie game filled with the love and passion for the genre.
How Much Are You Willing to Pay?
At the end of day, it’s the amount of money you’re willing to invest in the said game. I feel that the real test of the game is will the price point deter you after seeing gameplay videos or even trying out a demo. I paid $30 for Resident Evil 2. I was apprehensive about paying for a remake that only had 14-20 hours of gameplay, yet I didn’t feel ripped off twenty hours later. As I mentioned above, when the novelty ended, it was still fun to go through.
Horror games are usually short. Personally, I’ve waited for a lot of them to drop as a PS Plus free game. I got Until Dawn, Soma, and Outlast 2 for free. Would I have enjoyed it far less if I paid $30 for it like I did Resident Evil 2? If I would’ve paid for some of these games, I’d probably notice the glaring issues in Until Dawn. I didn’t pay much for the original Resident Evil either on PS One, but that was also the only one player game I had during the first few months of owning a PS One. Did I put up with the controls of Resident Evil because I didn’t have many games to play? I for one can confidently say that I liked the puzzles and horror charm that it had amidst the cheesy voice acting and unforgiving combat.
I enjoyed Dying Light, which I paid $15 to play. I paid $20 with The Sinking City and I didn’t feel ripped off, but I refuse to pay a penny more. I remember picking up Deadly Premonition on Xbox 360 for $5 at the bottom of a bargain bin back in 2010 and I enjoyed it.
Thank god for sales and discounts, I get to pay developers to scare myself shitless.
Watch Dogs: Legion (Check out our review!) is out and if you’ve been playing it, you’ll want to build your citizen army with every person you meet off the street. Will Bob the Butcher and Thomas the Train Engine That Could contribute to your dream team? Probably not, because while anyone can be recruited, not everyone will be a solid addition to your dream army. You gotta be selective and this Newbie Guide will help you with the groundwork.
Choose A Fighter Not A Lover For Your First Operative
It’s really great that you could choose anyone as your first operative, but I’d choose Sid over by the pub who can throw haymakers like no other and deals extra damage when drunk. Physicality over mentality is a good bet as your first operative. Because with a starter set, you still don’t have your tech infrastructure built and there is a big chance that you will be taking more damage than dealing it.
For best results, choose an operative that can take more punishment. You never know if you will need to take on a survival mission right away when recruiting your dream team from the pub. Also when recruiting, check out their stats first. If you’re gonna choose a glass cannon, make sure they can knock a bloke out with one punch before they get you.
Recruitment missions are full-on radiant quests given at random. It can be as easy as blowing up a weapons cache remotely two blocks away or it can be fending off an army of Clan Kelleys while you protect Mandi from Camden who’s skimming ETOs from her Mini Cooper. Hopefully Mandi comes with Uniformed Access because that extra ETO signing bonus isn’t worth a mouthful of lead.
Complete The First Mission ‘Reporting For Duty’
If you’re thinking of going around recruiting every possible person to join your cause, I suggest you finish the First Mission right away. It is easy enough to complete given that your operative probably has one good skill, you’ll need a lot more than that to take on the system.
Completing the first mission nets you a Hacker and a ConstructionWorker in the end. Not only are they useful, they also come with a full set of skills and load outs. This is the exact reason why I deterred you from getting a hacker from the start because the game will give you a stacked Black Hat when you complete this quest. While your hacker may differ in each game, the hacker that I got had a shock special that could shock an Albion soldier a block away. They also came with unlimited key downloads even if the surveillance camera is in the other room. The Construction Worker gives you access to a Cargo Drone, which allows you to reach higher buildings. It’s great when you have no drones to summon at a mission, they bring their own.
All you have to do is complete several Borough Challenges and complete the Borough Mission. It requires you to survive an Albion ambush in the end. That’s why I recommended a beefed up musclehead to start off with. Chances are your hacker would not be able to withstand a swarm of special ops with assault rifles.
Complete the Westminster Borough Mission for the Spymaster
You can pat your starting op on the back for surviving their first mission, but right now, you have two specialists that clearly outclass them in ability and in functionality. You could scour London for another burly fighter, but I suggest you complete the Westminster’s Borough Mission. You only have to finish two challenges and the mission involves moving your spider-bot to the top of the Westminster Tower. It’s pretty much a platformer and you get a Spymaster as your reward.
Spies are great fighters and they come with their own spy watch and spy car that can cloak and a silenced P9. With your hacker, construction worker, and your spy, you pretty much have a starter set of soldiers to take on the evil army, until well someone gets hurt and you need a replacement.
Optional: Join the Underground Fist Fighting Match
You still have your beefy first operative, right? Take the first mission across from the pub and you can have access to the Bare Knuckle Challenge street fighting match. You go through four rounds each time and once you complete it (if you chose an actual fist fighter as your first operative like I told you, the matches will be easy), you have access to some mean machines. Save their profiles for later use and you have a backup just in case your Spy or your first operative end up shot and left in a gutter somewhere.
Get A Shotgun and Drone Protection From Your Tech Points
As you move up the food chain, you notice that your Tech Points are starting to build up. I suggest getting some easy to use protection for your guys. A Shock Shotgun has better firepower than your shock pistol and could easily headshot your adversaries. Drone Protection is a must and if you could find a way to permanently deactivate them or hijack them, it would be even better because they can get quite annoying when they start to swarm.
Spend On Deep Profile and Recruit an Albion Double Agent
If you have another extra 25 points, I suggest allocating them into Deep Profile as soon as you can. If you haven’t noticed yet, a lot of recruit-able operatives are regular chumps who can do one or two cool things, but most of them don’t really add any value to the team. Plus the favors they ask from you are too detrimental and time consuming. You wonder why Clan Kelley and Albion have better guys besides the fact that they pay too much. How do you get one on your team?
Deep Profile allows you to access their personal lives and schedules and find ways to get them more sympathetic to your cause. It involves doing an extra step before starting their recruitment mission. It’s worth it considering that a lot of them have Uniformed Access to restricted areas and they probably come with two extra perks and an additional unique weapon load out. They are worth your while.
So the next time you trespass into a Clan Kelley stronghold, an Albion base, or a SIRS facility, shop around for good candidates. Save them into your Team archive and please, try to avoid knocking them out, or you gotta do them three favors instead of just two.
There you have it, a starter guide to getting your own army for Watch Dogs: Legion. Of course, we won’t spoil everything for you, but this will definitely get you the manpower you need to bring DedSec back on the map.
Let us know who your favorite operative is in the game!
Our review format is not your usual fare and we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings!
“Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above.
“Wait for it…” means that the game probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point, we suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10.
“Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future, unless you want to intentionally hurt yourself. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.
Release Date: October 29, 2020
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One ,PC
Genre: Open World Adventure
Similar Games: Watch Dogs 1 and 2, Grand Theft Auto V
Price: Starts at PHP2,495
I feel that most of Ubisoft worlds intersect with the same theme and subject matter, and the Watch Dogs franchise is no exception. However, in terms of standing out, the last two games have blended into the background having a lot similarities with other games in its genre like Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row.
From a non-player looking in, Watch Dogs seemingly lacks the core identity their flagship games have built over the years like Assassin’s Creed and The Division. Watch Dogs: Legion seeks to set itself apart from the other properties with its single minded proposition where you could be anyone and everyone, a direct reference to the hacktivist group Anonymous.
London is the stage where the story has been set and hacktivist group Dedsec intercepts a signal threatening an attack on the Parliament Building. Events go sideways and Dedsec has been branded a terrorist organization and the now fractured collective desperately seeks out the help of any of their available operatives. That is where you come along: to help rebuild this underground organization from the ashes of their former self while dodging local gangs and the new security corporation – Albion – who has turned London into a police state. All the while, the elusive hacker organization Zero Day who set all these events into motion, watches from the shadows, their next move a mystery…
The Hero is YOU… and Everyone Else.
At first I felt that Watch Dogs: Legion tries to pander to our kind of Millennial/Gen Z archetype who peruses the gig economy to make a living. When selecting your first operative, the selection of people are diverse and can range throughout a multicultural set of individuals with different disciplines and backgrounds. It was quite a nice touch to note that my choice of operatives here were different from my colleague.
I selected Dave Cooper, an IT specialist for better tech proficiency over an ex-military grunt or a novelist who has a background in cryptocurrency (because why do I want to play as myself, I already live it).
You eventually make it to your safe house where you get training on how to traverse this brave new world. I actually appreciated how they made this tutorial mission fresh as I usually get bored with this part of the game as we’ve come across this trope on this genre way too many times to count.
Rewards have been divided into the crypto ETO, which we use to purchase gear for each of our operative’s wardrobe. The other currency are Tech Points, in which we could purchase new gadgets or upgrade our existing ones to help us take on surveillance drones and recruit better operatives, even the ones who have a low opinion of Dedsec. We start off with an infiltrator spider-bot that helps with remote hacking and AP Cloak that makes you invisible for 20 seconds. Each up-gradable tech is divided into three levels, each one with their unique component to boost you up for the long haul. Finally Masks are another cool cosmetic collectible to add your endless collection. They protect your identity while keeping you either stylish or comedic.
While it feels like our chap Dave Cooper will be our sole eyes and ears for the rest of our Watch Dogs: Legion journey, as soon as you get out of the safe house, you’re able to recruit potential Dedsec operatives at Connie’s Pub. I recruited a former car thief who wanted me to steal a car they’ve been arrested boosting and drive it into the River Thames. It became a two for one deal as once I completed his mission, I ended up recruiting his best friend as well.
Each operative has their unique skill, perks, and also drawbacks. My initial operative is great with hacking, but merely average with fighting. One of my new recruits has a gambling problem, so while he sometimes wins some ETO for me, I lose out just as much. The good news is that you have the ability to retire every operative including your very first recruit. (Sorry, Dave) I eventually dismissed the gambler to stop the uncertain gain and loss of ETO. Other operatives come with their unique load outs, with one of my starter recruits owned a silenced P9 while another packed their own shock rifle. Other drawbacks include quirks that call attention to them losing out on stealth, increased jail times if caught, permadeath for some of our unlucky operatives, and our personal favorite… some of them just randomly die on the spot. Nobody shot them, nobody ran them over, Light Yagami just wrote their name on the Death Note and then gone.
Recruitment Missions begin as soon as you hear a potential operative’s story. They can range from escort missions, to hacking missions, to survival missions. After a dozen or so missions, the novelty wears off and they become for a lack of a better term, radiant quests. For some operatives, the missions are worth it as I’ve recruited better fighters with more combat training thus I can survive an ambush far more efficiently. For most recruits, it is best to check on their status and see if they’re worth pursuing. You can lose recruitsby failing a mission as well. Lost recruits could not be reclaimed again, so if you have a recruit you’ve set your eyes on, don’t fail that mission. However, if you do, accept their fate and move on as you have the whole of London to rally to your cause. As you progress through the game, you get higher tier operatives with more unique weapons, abilities, and personal drones & vehicles to change up your play style and try out new strategies.
As virtually almost every single citizen in London is up for grabs, the ecosystem is set up that these same NPCs that you randomly attack or run over with your bad driving can leave a lasting consequence on their perception of Dedsec. I have a potential recruit who I knocked out to download information on some medical files for another mission. It turns out that they have access to medical facilities that Dedsec could use. I eventually utilized Deep Profile so I could recruit said operative by doing them an extra favor / mission through the use of information from their stolen data. That tactic also works for potential recruits who already have a low opinion of Dedsec to begin with.
This has become my favorite part of the game because of how every bystander in the game could potentially become part of the main story. For the longest time, bystanders in open world games were merely walking liabilities who slow down your progress when they become collateral damage. Now every citizen is a potential recruit or a future enemy. It’s a fun dynamic that actually sets it apart from the typical open world game using the same tired system of completing quests and finishing side missions with the same generic protagonist auto-generated by the same game devs. I don’t know about you, but I often wonder about the faceless majority that populate any given open world game. Why does the chosen one douchebag get to have all the fun?
Hacking Is Your Weapon
Just like the previous games, the main draw of the combat system has been the hacking capability. You still are able to use physical combat in the game with melee fighting if you’re caught trying to infiltrate and every character is equipped with a shock pistol to fend off enemies. Some operatives as mentioned above are packing better heat than the conventional Dedsec load out, but your main weapon is using the tech in your fingertips to produce the best results.
The environment around you can be manipulated to trap enemies such as control panels could be rigged to detonate or send out an electric shock to neutralize enemies. Security cameras and even their own phones can be used to distract targets while you quickly do a take down or lead them away from your position. Even parked cars can be hacked to become a weapon, crushing clueless guards not knowing that their security has been breached. Your play style is up to you whether you wish to be lethal or a pacifist, it’s not Dishonored where there are permanent drawbacks for killing enemies. Take note that your operative can also be arrested and taken out of the board if you don’t play your cards right.
I prefer the stealth missions versus the actual combat because of what you can accomplish with hacking. You could plan your entry and escape by hijacking CCTVs around the enemy compound, learn enemy position, remotely download security keys for access, and have a cargo drone waiting at a convenient place for your quick getaway. It’s quite fun to figure out the safe zones on the fly and avoid combat altogether because they can get time consuming and not all your operatives are trained serial killers like in most games. Sometimes you can even do entire missions without being in the same room as the objective by using every hijack-able tool in your vicinity. There was a mission where I had to destroy a vehicle serving as a weapons cache at a Clan Kelley base, which was conveniently located underneath a mall. All I had to do was hack into a surveillance camera and trigger a remote explosion next to said vehicle. Nobody even knew I was technically in the same location.
While the hacking component as well potentially recruiting everyone in London gives you unbridled power, don’t underestimate what Albion, SIRS or Clan Kelley could throw at you. Combat Drones are especially annoying as they attract enemies on your path while and pack firepower that can easily neutralize your operatives where they stand. Turrets are also just as deadly as while they lack the mobility of a drone, their sheer firepower can turn your ambitious hacktivist into ground beef. Human enemies also present their own challenges as by themselves they can easily be neutralized but as a swarm, they can quickly overwhelm you with melee damage and could further escalate into using their firearm.
Combat and hacking controls are ubiquitous, they’re built into your regular exploration controls. While a skilled Black Hat could cause major damage a block away, manipulating the enemy’s tech against them; a skilled Spy or Hitman could infiltrate an enemy space and wipe enemies out with brawn alone. The real challenge is when your enemy comes at your operative’s weakness. In the case of our starter chap, Dave Cooper, he doesn’t have much combat skills so it’s easy for him to get taken out by an Albion grunt or one of Clan Kelley. While my fighters can hold themselves during survival missions, since hacking isn’t their forte, they could get taken out by an unplanned drone ambush or a hidden turret. Since you can’t change operatives in restricted areas, plan your missions accordingly.
Jolly Old London
Riding a vehicle around London is seamless between each borough, which makes it easy to access missions that seem to be far off from each other. As I’ve noticed, everything in London is separated by at least a kilometer away and some recruitment missions really ask you to go across town to save a friend or to hijack an AI replacement. I’ve played a plethora of open world games that utilized horse mechanics, so returning to automobiles was quite a bit of a challenge. Even more so that we have to drive on the left hand side of the road. The good news is that you can use your tech to forcibly move the self-driving cars to the side with your hack ability while you get the whole of the road to yourself.
There’s plethora of vehicles to choose from and some of your operatives own their personal carriage. However if there’s one lesson that Grand Theft Auto taught us, why own when you can steal? Out of the myriad of sports cars, utility vehicles, and heavy duty rigs that you can “borrow”, service machines like the Albion cruiser or an ambulance give you the ability to switch on your sirens and cars will make room for you. Motorbikes are the closest you could get to a horse but unlike in Red Dead Redemption, Assassin’s Creed, or Ghost of Tsushima, when you crash the bike only you get hurt. Motorboats are a great way to traverse River Thames and access hidden Albion bases. Spies own their personal spy car that can cloak and be in the same spot as you when you activate said operative. It’s probably the only personal vehicle that’s convenient to have because of the cool toys built into it.
What I hated was the fact that character movement depends on the physicality of your operative and there are times where your character can run for hours on end or you could have a grandma with mobility issues. There are times where I was hoping for a horse to negotiate through the crowded alleyways as ramming a Prius into the boardwalk is more trouble than it’s worth. To move faster, a vehicle is almost a necessity even within 100-200 meters away from your destination. While realistically, it makes the travel time more believable, the novelty wears off almost immediately when you just want to get to your next mission without spending five minutes actually getting there, like in real life. Exploration missions force the characters to walk and the sluggish pace really slows down the game’s momentum that sometimes I’d rather use a drone or a spider-bot to get it over and done with.
Unlike other open worlds of the same genre, there is no level requirement to explore much of London. What I hated about The Division was that certain areas have level requirements before even pursuing unless you welcome the absolute certainty of instant death and lost loot. Operatives are differentiated depending on their unique skill set. No grinding is required and if you need a specific skill, all you need to do is find an asset, do them a favor, and then activate them. It is in a way a different type of grind, but it’s not a run-of-the-mill numerical one. Also you can always save a potential recruit into your team archive and reach out to them when in need of their specific skill.
The mini-map is akin to searching for a specific store in a mall with Google Maps. They’re accurate enough but guesswork is still required on what exact floor they’re in. I appreciate that we have so few collectibles in this game that it’s almost not a necessity to grab them. The spider-bot is your friend for collecting items in hard to reach areas. I like that the fast travel points (outlined by The Tube stations) are revealed gradually when you peruse the map instead of actually physically traveling there to access. It solves quite a lot of the movement speed issues I have with the game and it also deters me from my bad driving.
Completing challenges is a great way of unlocking more experienced recruits as well as extra missions to expand on the game’s story. They range from disrupting propaganda, digital deface,neutralizing VIPs, photographing evidence, just to name a few. While completionists would get onto these activities, I appreciate that you are rewarded with extra content for allowing a borough to become defiant.
Speaking of missions, unless you’re dealing with a time sensitive event, you can complete any challenge near an ongoing mission before tackling your mission event. This way, it allows you to stack multiple activities at once without consequence. It’s a great component with a large map and varying character movement speeds, mission planning is almost a must at many points to save on game time stolen by load screens.
While you have your main & side missions, borough challenges, and recruitment missions; there’s a gamut of activity to be done for extra ETO while inciting dissent such as Paste-Ups, Kickball mini-games as well as doing timed deliveries for Parcel Fox. If Sam Porter Bridges thinks he has a monopoly on being a courier, you can become London’s own legendary porter delivering parcels and overpriced chicken tikka to your oppressed neighbors.
Fight The Power
The game starts off strong even for players such as myself who didn’t delve into the first two games. Unlike the Assassin’s Creed franchise where you could get lost with the entire Abstergo backstory, you don’t need any background on what Dedsec’s recent journey has been. The prologue felt like an episode of James Bond or Mission Impossible and sets the stage of the rest of the game. As I commented on the tutorial, there’s not a lot of boring down times. The walking time and some recruitment missions may slow down your progress a bit, but if you follow the flow of the game, the pacing is consistently quick and its missions brief.
While the game doesn’t just throw you into the world like in The Division 2‘s campaign, central characters like the intrepid Sabine Brandt and the wise-cracking AI program Bagley serve as anchors for its narrative. They are your early guides easing you into the world’s lore and don’t throw you into the deep end without proper training. That being said, it also gives you enough freedom to explore said world with minimal hand holding that doesn’t seem like it’s leaving you to sink or swim like in The Division 2. You could definitely start fresh without any reference to previous protagonist Marcus Holloway and his exploits.
Also, every operative does not feel like a generic grunt like in The Division, they have their own backstory and while their personalities and even voice tonality may intersect, there’s enough variety for every operative that they can each stand on their own. It gives a human voice when completing the main story allowing myself to build empathy to the cause unlike in open world games with silent protagonists where I only care about how much XP I’ll earn and the loot I’ll receive.
The individual missions are well designed and add to the construction of the world as a whole. The open world storytelling has desensitized me quite a bit and I’ve skipped many side quest cutscenes in recent memory because it always involves some form of fetch quest, escort mission, or delivery of some kind. While Watch Dogs: Legion did not attempt to reinvent the wheel, the game has come up with creative ways of integrating these missions with the lore of the world and your relationship with contemporary technology.
I underestimated Borough missions as a whole because it requires busy work to unlock and then I assumed I’ll undergo another generic fetch mission. However, I was genuinely surprised with the slick level design incorporated in these quests. One quest called for a spider-bot to climb the Westminster Tower in order to generate a widespread disruption of Albion propaganda being projected from its apex. While in what is reminiscent of a “temple exploration quest”, you explore a decommissioned power plant with only a news drone to help you negotiate the pitch black landscape in order to free kidnapped activists.
The early main story missions got me quite intrigued because I expected an exposition dump as the mission calls for an investigation of the mystery of Dedsec’s downfall. I commend the scenario designers of hiding heavy exposition within a uniquely designed investigation quest where you infiltrate said compound while reconstructing past events with AR tech. Games of late have been abusing the flashback narrative tool to tell the story, but instead of making it interesting, they become a twenty minute info-dump with terrible dialogue. Using the tech to tell a story as well as looping in other operatives into the adventure is a great way to integrate all the moving parts into one coherent narrative flow. If only early missions in open world games could be more engaging like this, it would prevent me from leaving them for last as I exhaust the open world for all the extras leaving me with no motivation to continue the main narrative.
As I progressed through the game, I’ve and built up a diverse roster of recruits, ranging from the main hacker operative to the muscle that can withstand an ambush from either Albion or Clan Kelley. Just like in Suikoden, I have operatives that are there for passive functions like reducing arrest time and injury duration for downed operatives. I even have operatives that provide clothes discounts. For fun, I recruited a hypnotist grandma, because everybody should have a hypnotist grandma in their task force. I’m currently sending a septuagenarian MMA enthusiast granny to all the underground fist fighting tournaments, because we can’t let Heihachi Mishima be the only septuagenarian (or at this stage octogenarian) to be the King of the Iron Fist Tournament.
With a diverse cast like the motley crew I’ve assembled, there are many dynamic ways you could go about completing missions utilizing the skill sets of your team. Though there could’ve been more variety of operatives from the skill combinations that I’ve run across because securing a crew of two to three operatives is enough to get you through most missions. Hackers are quite imbalanced and will mostly run the show, you would only need to round your crew off with operatives with specific uniformed access such as an undercover Clan Kelley enforcer or an Albion contractor. I feel that there should be a patch or a difficulty option that puts a limit on operative usage, such as an operative should not be available during some parts of the day because of the responsibilities of their alter-ego. That would encourage the player to establish a healthy rotation within their roster. Combined with a repetitive recruitment mechanic, there will come a point in your thirty to forty hour mark that the novelty will completely wear off and the process will become a chore. I’m not gonna lie though, it’s quite fun just being an all-powerful hacker. You can assert your dominance as a modern day sorcerer by abusing all the tech in the vicinity to make everyone bend to your will.
I’ll end this review with a comment on the load times. In my total run of this campaign which will vary depending on how you play but we can safely say that it’ll take around 25 hours give and take, 20% of that time involved a loading screen of some kind. The worst is when a load screen pops up when you’re switching between your operatives and fast traveling, which you will do A LOT given that London is a huge place, people drive on the wrong side of the road, and your bench has the potential to get deep as the eventual missions call for specific skill sets. This hopefully might change for the next gen, because these load screens add up and they get annoying real fast.
What We Liked:
Fresh take on the open world genre with creative mission designs subverting expectations.
Recruitment missions and maximizing the existence of every NPC in the game.
Hacking components seamlessly blend with combat and environment.
Open world allows full exploration of London without a level requirement.
No need to play previous Watch Dogs games to enjoy.
What We Didn’t Like:
Load Times, but could be different on a Next Gen Platform
Moving 100 meters in-game by foot feels like 100 meters in real life.
Recruitment missions after the first dozen become glorified radiant quests.
Late game mechanics eventually default to repetitive usage of the same three main operatives; creating a feeling of tedium and under utilization of other members of the team.
Verdict: Buy It!
Watch Dogs has come a long way in establishing their brand and I feel that the open world of the game seems fresh for this type of genre. The main fact that every NPC gets to be part of the main party feels original. In a market saturated with the same open world game, it was nice to get a taste of something new.
Raise your hand if you’re tired of the chosen one story. While at first it seemed pandering, it’s a breath of fresh air that every average schmoe has the agency to fight for their home and that they don’t have to rely on some privileged self-important hero to save the day. As they say in game, Am so soddin’ sick o’ that tried an’ tested smeg it makes me go aggy; makes ye wish fo’ somethin’ new, innit?
I expected to hate this game from the get go because it ticked off almost everything that annoys me in an open world game by definition. However, upon playing the game, I pretty much realized I’ve judged the game by its franchise. Since I got an enjoyable experience out of it, this is one of those rare times where I’m happy to be proven wrong.
*Watch Dogs: Legion was reviewed on a PS4 Pro via a review code provided by the publishers.
Ever since I picked up the game at the end of September, I’ve been hooked. At first, I jumped into the game thinking I’d try it out and then quit it after a couple of hours. The first few runs, I had that feeling. Go through the dungeon and as a roguelike, I would die. It was daunting, I wondered how I could actually beat the game if I’m gonna restart every time I keep dying? Eventually, I unlocked weapons and I enjoyed some of the gameplay. After a dozen or so attempts on this save file, I realized that I’ve wasted my rare drops for instant gratification and wasn’t feeling God Mode at all. I started a new file and progressed quite quickly after that.
It’s ironic that when I run into a problem, I go through a cycle of saying this game is impossible, I’ll probably quit followed by uncovering something else that reignites my passion to conquer the game. Playing it on Nintendo Switch, the game has no achievements making my desire to beat the game its sole motivator. The last time I played without the motivation of achievements would be Persona 3Portable.
At the time of writing, I completed one hundred escape attempts throughout three separate adventures. Considering the fact that I average about 45 minutes per run, because some runs require more precision and some require a lot of speed. That’s 75 hours alone excluding the time I spent in the House of Hades and the twelve hours I spent on my primary run and my exploration of Hell Mode, so I’ve spent about a good hundred hours on this game at this point. I’ve only escaped the prescribed ten times to see the credits roll, and mostly because I was grinding sub-quests and keepsakes. I also attempted the Heat Gauges as the rewards at this point not only made my skill better as a player, but the rare bounties made me unlock different aspects of the story or make my existing weapons strong.
The First Fifteen Runs – Temptation of God Mode
I didn’t exactly enjoy my starting few runs of the game. Mostly because of that daunting experience where you accidentally die on Asphodel on your sixth run, only to start from the very beginning to face the same difficult mini-boss and boss fight at the end of Tartarus. God Mode is an option you can switch on from the menu and on my tenth run, I flipped the switch. Sure I made it to Elysium after that, but I felt I didn’t earn the rewards from that run. Combined with the fact that I messed up my Nectar allocation and traded my Titan’s Blood for cheap gemstones, after my fifteenth run, I started a new game. This time I’m doing it right.
Runs Sixteen to Forty – Tasting Freedom
When I started a new game, I knew what to do in my first few runs and what to set up. Gift the Nectar to the right confidant, grind some beginner Keepsakes, make sure I have the right build on the Mirror of Night, and make it as far as I can. On my 38th run, I was able to finally make it out. It was my second fight with Hades and I had a shield. It also took me a full hour to complete said run. With a beginner build and playing as safe and precise as possible, I was able to edge out the big man with a few lucky breaks in between. Patroclus is a lifesaver granting extra Death Defiance when you’ve used them up thwarting the Furies and Lernie, The Bone Hydra. I thought I was done, but my journey was just beginning…
Runs Forty-One to Fifty-Five – Fail, Fail, and Fail Some More
This is when it started to get frustrating. With the exception of my ultra cheese run that involved carpet bombing the place with my Adamant Rail, every fight with Hades ended in defeat. I tried every trick in the book to stop the guy, but without hiding behind the shield and skipping the fully upgraded Broken Spearhead to grind all my other keepsakes. The damage output of Hades and his cohorts whittled me down to a mangled rag doll. Sometimes it’s not even Hades, but Theseus and the Minotaur always seemed to have their way. By run fifty, I was consistently making it to Hades with little life left in me, all he had to do was hit me with one spin attack to send me flying back to The House of Hades.
Runs Fifty-Six to Seventy – Small Victories and Continued Defeats
My favorite part of this Sisyphean quest are the times when I pulled through and secured the rest of my wins with the other weapons in my arsenal. After that, it was a few great runs with the Twin Fists of Malphon and learning how to time my dash-strikes and combos. I went from two successful escapes to eight in a few small streaks. It also helped that many of my skills are maxed out and my response to game was in my muscle memory. While the game is mostly about trying to escape, I did mention about the Relationship Sub-quests that litter this game that give you insight with the Olympian Gods and also the Chthonic Gods. Coupled with the Pacts of Punishment and grinding keepsakes, my frustration is balanced out with curiosity.
Runs Seventy-One to Eighty-Five – The Painful Stretch To The End Credits
I continued to increase my Heat Gauge to reset my bounties and at the same time, grind my keepsakes and improve my relationships. Plus tried to complete every sub-quest. It resulted in uneven and unfocused load-outs that made Hades do easy work on me after being weakened on the stretch to reach him. This resulted in short runs due to playing around with new skill sets and new weapon aspects. This eventually concluded when I finished my keepsake grind after the eighty-third run leading to a back-to-back escape that got me to the End Credits. I still have ways to go for a completionist ending, but I’ve seen an ending and at this point, I was getting exhausted playing with a small screen with a Switch Mini. Next time, I’ll play using a larger screen.
Runs Eight-Six to One Hundred – Exploring Erebus and A Brush With Hell Mode
I started to mess around with the game a bit more, cranking up the Heat Gauge to as high as I could in order to enter Erebus where you wager your current run for a double or triple helping of a reward. You either engage in a no damage encounter or a timed encounter, where you have to defeat all the enemies while fulfilling the parameters. Also, you can challenge The Boatman, Charon, to a fight after you try to steal his stash. It’s a tougher fight during the early stages of the game, and it is best to challenge him around Asphodel where you’re powered up enough. I recommend using the final keepsake you receive as it powers up your Boons after six encounters. If you manage to beat him, you get a discount card. Woohoo.
As I grew tired of playing around, I tried Hell Mode that was offered when starting a new game. You start out with a mandatory Pact of Punishment on Heat Gauge Five. With nothing to start with, you are thrown into Tartarus with only your blade and your wits. After nearly a dozen tries, I put the game down and realized that I’ve had my fill of Hades. With a hundred runs, they said it takes 10,000 hours to be proficient in a skill, and barely scraping a hundred hours of game time, I could say I learned a thing or two that I would probably forget once I start diving into Cyberpunk 2077 later next month.
Lessons In Futility – Speed With Precision
“Do it well and then do it fast,” is something I’ve heard from work supervisors a lot more times than “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”. It is tempting to go for a speed run every time because the more you take your time, the more the hours add up. I would make a revision on that adage by saying, learn to be precise and when you’ve mastered that, go fast.
A great way to train this skill is to stop using Greater Reflex on your Mirror of Night and switch to Ruthless Reflex. That way, you will learn how to dodge properly because it requires precise timing. Plus dashing all over the place does not teach you anything besides being reckless. Although that strategy works really well with the Stygian Blade and the Twin Fists.
There are massive benefits to learning to be precise, however. You can memorize enemy movements until they become muscle memory. You can weave into highly populated areas with enemies and projectiles while aggressively getting close for a power combo. This way you can take advantage of the near miss bonuses. When you switch back to Greater Reflex, you can make the most of your two dashes, and now you can really make a dent with your damage output.
Lessons In Futility – Long Range versus Close Quarters Battle
Out of my successful escapes, I’ve used the Twin Fists the most. Now you ask, why do you want to get close? The truth is, the game is designed to make you comfortable with long range battle. Four out of the six weapons are designed with long range in mind. Then you get comfortable with the range and you end up looking for ways to push back. This is what will hamper your future success. You want to escape? Don’t be afraid to get close.
The magic of getting close with the fists is how much of the damage builds up at close range. Aspect of Talos is my aspect of choice because the vacuum component is great for board clearing. You can easily defeat weaker enemies and you can dance with the bigger and armored creeps for last. Ensured that you’ve learned controlled dashing from my statement above, if you combine the vacuum punch aspect and add Poseidon’s Flood Shot as your cast, you can control the board with the push and pull aspect. The enemy starts getting aggressive, Cast to push back and stun, then Special to pull back in. Then you lay on the Pacman punches. If you’re feeling really fancy, then you add a dash behind the enemy for backstab damage and then keep them guessing.
Lessons In Futility – Edging Out Hades
You don’t rush Hades. Out of the forty or so times that I’ve lost to Hades, it’s because I came unprepared or I came too prepared and rushed him. As a boss, he’s straightforward enough, it’s frustrating to lose to him especially if you came prepared for a fight. His real strength is heightened damage, heightened vitality, and his goddamned spin attack. When he fills up the screen with enough of his Skull Cast and Wretches, it’s easy to lose sight of him and he will hit you with everything he’s got. So when the screen fills up with enemies, focus on a single target while watching out for Hades.
As I said in the past guides, Broken Spearpoint is your friend. This way if you miss a dash or if you forget to hide, it gives you a second to catch your breath without taking too much punishment. After a while the damage adds up and if you get caught in a bad way with Hades, he will put on the hurt. Also make sure your Cast and Call are skills you can setup and leave alone. Crystal Beam, Flood Shot, or Artemis Cast work well in that regard and Zeus, Ares, Poseidon and Artemis Aid are your friends. That way, you can concentrate on building your DPS with your attack and special. You do not need to overwhelm your micro with Cast and Call. Concentrate on three buttons (Attack, Special, and Dash), the target in front of you, and dodging Hades, anything more will overwhelm and that’s when you’ve already lost.
Lessons In Futility – Temporary Godliness
Concentrate on Three Gods, a single Daedlus Hammer, probably two Chaos deals and a Hermes for good measure. Everything else either invest in your health or to improve your skills. For your Mirror of Night setup, use Family Favorite, Dark Foresight, Gods’ Pride, and Fated Persuasion.
All of your later runs are dependent on the RNG you receive. While Privileged Status allows you much damage when you have two status effects set up. However, Ares, Zeus, Poseidon and Artemis aren’t known for the status effects, splashing a bit of Aphrodite, Demeter, Dionysus, and Athena takes away from your total damage output. Family Favorite gives bonuses on your Boons regardless of its type. So whether you’re spamming lightning, doom blades, or critical arrows, it gives you the extra edge. Dark Foresight increases your chances for Daedalus Hammers, Centaur Hearts, and Pomegranates to strengthen what you currently have rather than relying on Boon RNG. While Duos and Legendaries are amazing to have, I’d rather go for an Epic skill with Gods’ Pride and to use your Fated Persuasion to cycle through the skill choices.
This way, matched with your already skillful dodge, high damage CQB, powerful cast and call setup, once you have enough support boons to supplement your DPS, maybe you don’t need that much Death Defiance to make it through the game. The main key now is to make sure you only die once with Hades.
Just as an aside, a maxed out relationship with Dusa gives you a kitted out Companion Fidi. I usually use this to deal a good amount of damage to Theseus and Asterius at the end of Elysium. Out of the three bosses that’s not Hades, they still can catch you off-guard. By chipping away a good chunk of the champions’ health then you can divide and conquer between the two and get rid of them according to your setup strength and weakness.
Thank you for joining me in this prolonged love affair with Hades, a game that I thought I would shelve for a good year before picking it up some time in 2021. As with all things cool, I keep my obsession for it intermittently brief. It’s been a blast and I hope you enjoyed reading these articles and best of luck making your own 100 escapes!
Disco Elysium was never on my radar until I saw the results for best narrative in the Game Awards last year. It beat out The Outer Worlds and Control for best story and the last time I wondered about that was back in 2016 when Oxenfree was one of the nominees for the award. I bought Oxenfree when it went on sale (alongside co-nominee Firewatch) on PSN and I was floored. It was a brilliant exercise in interactive storytelling clearly illustrating what a time loop can feel like. The story elements weaved seamlessly with the gameplay and invited me for seconds. The game was easily completed within 5-7 hours and I’ve scoured every nook and cranny by the 20th hour, taking home the platinum to boot. Thus, when Disco Elysium took home the narrative award, ZA/UM’s indie darling shot from obscurity to the top of my gaming radar.
Lacking a workable gaming laptop, I had to wait with the rest of the console plebeians as the PC Master Race lavished in its spoils. It would be late 2020 at best as I remembered it took forever for Darkest Dungeon to drop on PSN. To my surprise, they released it on the Mac late April. All the stars aligned: The Working Class update allowed the game to run on 2012 Macbooks, the game was 25% off on Steam, and I was looking for a new game to sink my teeth into—I didn’t even think twice.
It’s been three years since I last navigated Steam, and the interface on the Mac didn’t change much. Besides not being able to play most of my early access games (now on Beta stages three years later), Steam empowers Mac gamers to be able to access some of the games the PC Master Race have monopolized for years. After purchase, the 11 gig game was quick to download and I was ready to have my mind blown.
Unique Character Creation
The generated character archetypes already drew me in. It reminded me of World of Darkness archetypes and it was a refreshing break from the mute warriors taking on the same quest of saving the world from their androgynous BL pairing on JRPGs. Of course, I had to choose the “Sensitive” archetype because my characters in Fallout, Mass Effect and Dragon Age usually talk their way out of things. If I was a scrappy DPS with the “Mentalist” archetype that cuts their way to the top, I think I already had my fill with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Bravely Default for that.
Upon checking out the skill sets, I was instantly in love. I hated David Lynch’s Inland Empire, but this skill with the same name I’m in love with. I like a skill that allows me to see the fabric of reality in-game. It’s great that ZA/UM thinks of neurotic gamers like us. What drew me to Persona and even the Shin Megami Tensei games in general is this unspoken existential dread that lurks in the underbelly of its normcore world. While Persona 4 onwards touches on it, it drops the Jungian psychobabble and maxes out the waifu BS to the wazoo.
The game opens to an internalized dialogue between the layers of your brain. At this point, if this is not your cup of tea, I warned you. The dialogue is sardonic, existential, and really creates a strong first impression on what we’re about to expect. Of course, being deliciously Kafkaesque (or dare I say Lovecraftian?), I kept digging, descending into the proverbial rabbit hole of madness. Or what I’d love to call Mondays before my weekly Zoom meeting. The game starts off simply enough. It really reminds me of days where I go on an uncontrollable bender and I can’t seem to get a grasp of reality. This existential discombobulation really is relatable to a good part of us almost 40-somethings. A good 30 minutes of game time is spent trying to get dressed and a good deal of gameplay really delves into how the character thinks. Hell, even finding a shoe is a side quest on its own!
As I explore the hostel I woke up in with no recollection of the past, I run across its denizens and make conversation. Social skill checks start to happen, so what do I do? Save and Reload to get the best possible outcome. The irony is that failing actually gets better results, narrative-wise. Another awesome feature is how your own brain launches you into caving into your physiological urges like smoking and impulsively singing karaoke, turning them into quests. It’s a trap for pseudo-completionists like myself because I would do it for the experience points.
Not getting deep into the story, but trying to remember your actual home address causes another feature to unlock allowing you to delve into your psyche as a “internalization project” where game time is spent unlocking it. Speculating into the future, I feel that the game has a time limit of sorts, kind of like in Persona where you move in a linear fashion and days that went past cannot be returned to. So pick your overthinking projects carefully.
Mac Gaming 101
I was enjoying the dialogue and the atmosphere until I went outside. And the game crashed. I tried it again, and the game crashed again. I restarted the Mac and it continued to crash. After a few fruitless quests to the message boards and Google, I decided to lower the graphic performance so I can actually progress through the game. The last time this happened to me was when I was trying to run Police Quest 4 on my dilapidated Power Mac back in 1995! Ironically, this entire ordeal to get my game to work became a side quest IRL. Minimizing my specs and going back and forth through full screen and windowed gameplay is a chore in itself. I don’t even want to think about how this will affect combat as the game continues to crash as I explore outside.
What makes the game so frustrating is that lower graphics actually take away from the experience! The game is telling me that it is winter now, but when I go outside, it seems like a fine day. Then when I maxed out the settings again, snow started to fall! In the end, I’m applying a workaround to my system issues while trying to enjoy a game and this would definitely take away from the experience. I might even buy this on the console…
Yet with my misadventures in Divinity 2 for PS4, I realized that isometric games are best played on the PC. There’s just this organic way how you can hover your mouse on assets and it expands your world. The controls on PS4 take away from the experience and the loading times delays momentum. I feel that if there’s a console I’ll probably enjoy this, it would be on the Nintendo Switch as it has touchscreen functions that would take the place of the mouse.
Disco Elysium is quite the treat and is one that really spoke to me. It isn’t for everyone, but it is for someone who loves a good story behind the games they play. If you love isometric adventures with hard RPG elements and witty dialogue, Buy it, it’ll be worth your time. Wait For It if you don’t quite have the time right now and still want to see what the hype is all about. Avoid It if you like your games with less reading and more fast paced action.
With a month left prior to the release of Cyberpunk 2077, Night City Wire has become quite a common occurrence to keep itself relevant and the fans hyped. With a promise to look at the vehicles this time around, excitement for this episode isn’t as pronounced compared to the first couple episodes, but we stuck it out for any new surprises in store. However, bereft with surprises, save for the appearance of Keanu Reeves, the episode mostly details the vehicles, styles, and a word up on Google Stadia
Rides Of The Dark Future
The new trailer Rides of The Dark Future sums up the vehicles of the game. As a sprawling open world, being able to catch a glimpse of everything on foot is no laughing matter even with Fast Travel. To traverse the metropolis and the dangerous badlands, you have many vehicles to choose from. Economy Class vehicles focus much on utility and getting the job done – your typical SUVs, consumer sedans, and pickups. ExecutiveClass vehicles are your souped up rides built for comfort and luxury to get you where you need to go in style. Heavy Duty vehicles such as trucks and tanks are unstoppable juggernauts that let you courier sensitive items and ram everyone else out of the way. While if you want speed and respect, the Sport Class is probably right for you. Finally Hypercars combine the class of the Executive Vehicles, the armor of the Heavy Duties, and the speed and prestige of the Sport Vehicles.
The team at CD Projekt Red pulled all the stops to make the vehicles in the game as believable as possible combining classic combustion engine sounds as well as giving each vehicle a unique look, feel, and style to make every driving experience different. With that they collaborated with Arch Motorcycles for that customized motorbike feel as well as actually recording sound design with a professional race car driver.
Game-wise, vehicles work the same way as in Grand Theft Auto V where you could steal each of the different classes of cars, each with its own personality and design, from the exterior to the dashboard where the iterations of vehicles would depend on what you buy or steal at the moment. Owning your own vehicle would require you to purchase it from your fixer and just like Roach in The Witcher 3, you could “summon” said car to your location. Unfortunately if you’re on a roof, I don’t think the car could fly. I mean, it’s 2077 people, where are the flying cars?
2077 In Style
The second trailer featured on this episode focuses on the Night City Style, which would be a key part in its cosmetic rewards to make your version of V unique. They range from four distinct choices, Kitsch: mostly style over substance; Entropism: no style at all; Neo Militarism: a cold executive look that values functionality over look; and finally Neo Kitsch, which marries the tenets of Kitsch and Neo-Militarism for the uber-elite.
Any New Surprises?
Cyberpunk 2077 launches on November 19th for the PS4, Xbox One, PC, next-gen consoles, and just recently announced Google Stadia. Stadia pre-orders are out now. Night City Wire Episode Five has been teased with the Diner sizzle reel, which will be focusing mostly on body mods.
At this point, CD Projekt Red should just release a demo.
You can watch the full Night City Wire episode 4 below:
Disclaimer: This guide is meant for players who have completed their first successful run of Hades. That means you’ve successfully escaped, not reached the surface only to be kicked to the curb by the eponymous big daddy himself. I can’t stop you from reading any further, but know the risks of spoiling yourself from an enriching experience. If you need help actually beating the big man, read our Newbie’s Guide to Schooling Hades. If you’re brand new to the experience, play a few rounds then readNewbie’s Guide to Exploring Hades.
Got it? Good.
The game had you going didn’t it? All will be well when you get out. So why bother decorating the damn house, making friends, or petting Cerberus when you’re gonna fly off to see Yanni at the Acropolis anyway? (For those too young to get the reference, Google is your friend) Turns out, your dead ass is tied to the Underworld and you only have fifteen minutes to have a conversation with your mother or you can order a pizza from Sam Porter Bridges to get to you by then. If you’re gonna get something delivered, might as well ask for the best.
Can You Feel The Heat?
One thing that has changed is that Hades, being a disgruntled section chief that he is, has to make things extra difficult for you. He’s that tough supervisor that gives you useless tasks and his way of encouragement is that Boomer sentiment of all that work is good for you. As a former boss kept telling me at my first job, “It’s good for the soul”. So welcome to the Pact of Punishment, where you can take on extra challenges and reset your bounty so you can get more of the good stuff. The good stuff being Titan’s Blood, Diamonds, and Ambrosia.
Just to be clear, you don’t need to take on these challenges, but you really want to max out all those weapons with the extra Titan’s Blood. However, it’s not going to be the same rodeo as let me warn you… it will be hard. Meaning, maybe you probably had an easy time using the Coronacht with the lock-on or you took your sweet time with the Aegis. Like a frog in a pot, it starts you off small, one point on the heat gauge. It adds up real fast. Imagine the Chaos challenges, but instead of a few encounters, try the whole run. Enemies could have more health, grow in number, or have an extra layer of armor. Bosses have additional moves in their arsenal. Traps can hit you harder, each area has to be cleared in nine minutes or less, your Mirror Skills can be locked, and so much more fun stuff to keep it fresh!
You can also crank up the heat gauge if you’re a bit of a masochist, but you really don’t need to do that to earn more bounties. You have to go up slowly. However, you can actually increase the heat level for weapons you haven’t escaped with at the moment. It’s a great way of acquiring more Titan’s Blood and Diamonds as they are definitely useful. At this point, I think you can take on the Furies and Lernie (The Bone Hydra) with no problem at all. In this world of instant gratification, it’s the one thing you can be sure to withdraw.
Also if you’ve collected about five diamonds, you can have access to another layer of hell Erebus for a crazier challenge and deeper rewards. It also has a heat gauge requirement to enter, the lowest I’ve seen being five. It’s something to think about later.
I used to love Persona before it got too mainstream. In fact, Hades really reminds me of Persona 3, my favorite one of the bunch reimagining the Greek Pantheon closer to Neil Gaiman’s vision rather than how everybody else keeps turning it cheesy. Also it’s deliciously existential, but that’s my thing. In my last guide, I advised to give out only one Nectar to a new face to receive their Keepsake and stop giving it in order to maximize your nectar to keepsake ratio. Apparently, if you keep gifting them, your relationship with each character grows.
Social Links Hades Style!
Unlike in Persona where you go eat takoyaki together and engage in some Jungian psychobabble, it’s pretty much the same in Hades but with limited hangout spots, you’re bound to just drink with them in the lounge. With that in mind, you can raise everybody’s relationship level to six before you have to go further with your relationship. Each confidant has particular needs so it can be as simple as listening to them or do tasks like maxing out the Stygian Blade and kill them with it. Whatever it is, if you like them that much, feel free to fulfill it and once you’re ready to take it to the next level, seal the deal with a bottle of Ambrosia.
Just like in Persona, when you max out a relationship with a character, it depends if the character in question is an intimate ally related to the main story or an NPC that you happened to come across . Say if you compare Ann to Kawakami-sensei from Persona 5, their benefits will be different max them out. In my case, I’ve maxed out Charon and Thanatos. Charon was easy to master was all I had to do was keep buying from his shop but Thanatos, I had to keep winning in his kill chamber subquest. While Charon couldn’t even give me a staff discount in his store, Thanatos was able to grant me a new Keepsake – Companion Mort, which is akin to a Final Fantasy summon where I could call them to do massive damage. Unlike the base keepsakes that I could grind to level up, these new keepsakes require Ambrosia. So if you’ve been trading those for Titan’s Blood or Diamonds, I got some bad news for you…
Make The Most Of Your Stay At Chateau Hades
Now that you’re back, you really gotta make the most of your stay. It will be a long journey, so why not shake things up and make it fun? Unlock a compendium of subquests by activated the Fated List of Minor Prophecies from the Contractor to manage all your extras. All your collectathons and relationship quests are listed with rewards from Gemstones, to Keys, and Nectar. Of course the rarer commodities like Titan’s Blood, Diamond, and Ambrosia require more challenging and grindtastic demands.
If you’ve maxed out the Mirror of Night, I recommend unlocking all the way until the end. Retool your skill set one more time and customize it to your needs. One thing you have to be wary of is how the skills on the Mirror reflect your play style. You have your basic set that suits my needs just fine and you have the alternate set that works for some weapon aspects. While difficult to master, the spear’s Aspect of Guan Yu has a great synergy for this alternate set, but requires a complete new set of skills I don’t have. One thing to consider, God’s Legacy is a great skill to max out as it increases the chances you’ll unlock Duos and Legendary Boons. They really save your skin out there and the extra benefit really adds that extra 100 damage to make the big man yield.
Testing the skills out in my later runs, I find that I could be down with most of the alternate skill sets, save for two: Death Defiance and Greater Reflex. I’ve yet to master the art of well-timed dodging and well-timed dying. My current strategy is basically saving all my death defiance until I reach Hades, which for the most part works because I seem to attract the RNG number that generates Patroclus on Elysium. So whatever Death Defiance I lose getting there, I regenerate at Patroclus’ chamber, especially for weapons I’m not too proficient with. As for spamming the dash button, it’s great when you have a kitted out Lightning Dash or Blade Dash, I can just weave across enemies and drop extra damage on them. The alternate skills: Stubborn Defiance and Ruthless Reflex are based on precision. With Stubborn Defiance, you’re allowed to die once per Chamber and will regenerate 30% life. With Ruthless Reflexes, you’re granted attack bonuses after dodging a near-miss. Master both and then combine with Aspect of Guan Yu, theoretically you’ll have a regenerating glass cannon of a build. Whatever health you lose, you can heal with the spin attack and you have a safety net of one death per chamber. Problem is, you gotta dodge every hit with style.
That being said, what do you do with all the extra Cththonic Keys after unlocking all the weapons and the mirror skills? Trade them for Nectar from the Wretched Broker. Also, if you have Fated Authority or Fated Persuasion, you have the capacity to earn tokens for them by collecting keys after commissioning a work order from your Contractor thus creating a steady supply of Nectar. While we’re on the topic of work orders, use your Diamonds to commission ways to extend your resources. That way for every Darkness you collect, you gain +5 Health, Gemstones gives you an extra 20 gold, and Nectars will randomly upgrade a Boon. For the price of twelve diamonds, it’s a good use of resources that will reward you in spades. If you have an extra diamond, get a Fishing Rod. Caught fish could be traded for items from the Chef.
Escape Planning 101
You’ve probably escaped more than me by now, because I’m an old man and my reaction time isn’t what it’s used to be. I mostly rely on cheesing the opponents and it takes quite a bit of time for me to learn how to block and punish properly. In my successful attempts to escape, I’ve learned better ways of using dash, better ways to dealing damage, and ultimately stopped button mashing altogether. Here are six different builds I’ve put together in my attempts to escape with a particular weapon class.
Aegis Shield Build
Infernal Arms: Darker Thirst, Aspect of Chaos Level 1
Keepsake: Broken Spearpoint
Daedalus Hammer: Breaching Rush and Explosive Return
Support Boons: Artemis (Hunter Dash, Artemis Aid level 2), Hermes (Swift Flourish, Hyper Sprint), Demeter (Snow Burst).
My first win against Hades has been won with the shield. Out of all the weapons, this is the only one that can block and you can combo with it quite easily. What I don’t like about this build has a lot of splash dash boons built into it and I could’ve chosen to add other benefits. As mentioned in my other guide, I was working with a block-bull rush-special, trippy shot, and call combo. It’s a boring combo as it takes a while to kill any boss. It was completed on my 24th escape attempt, so as a beginner build, I think it’s a safe bet.
The Good: Controlled block and punish strategy.
The Bad: Need to cut down on the slap-dash boons.
The Ugly: Boring AF, not recommended for speed runs.
Adamant Rail Build
Infernal Arms: Aspect of Eris Level 1, Darker Thirst
Secondary Boon: Aphrodite (Blown Kiss and Crush Shot)
Support Boons: Artemis (Artemis Aid), Dionysus (Premium Vintage)
This is another “beginner build” using the cheap tactics of the Adamant Rail special combined with Poseidon’s pushback abilities. The entire build rests on Hazard Bomb and supported by Cyclops Jerky to increase my attack along with Poseidon’s knockback damage. All I had to do was dash away from Hades and drop the bomb doing about 600 damage at a time. Even my Artemis Aid does 500 damage with critical. It’s textbook cheese.
The Good: Easy way to kill Hades.
The Bad: Relies too much on Hazard Bomb, you have to get it a Daedalus Hammer chamber, which rarely spawns.
The Ugly: Cheesy AF, not exactly something to be proud of, but a win’s a win.
Coronacht Bow Build
Infernal Arms: Aspect of Chiron Level 1, Darker Thirst
Support Boons: Hermes (Greatest Reflex), Demeter (Blizzard Shot, Frost Strike), Zeus (Billowing Strength, Lightning Reflexes, Static Discharge), Athena (Clouded Judgment)
I’m surprised by this one as I really don’t like CQB with Hades, but ended up using a close range bow because I wanted to complete some side quests. However, thanks to picking up some support Boons in the later half of the game, I was able to convert all my close-range skills to long range ones with my Cast and Special. Mirage Shot is a life saver as it added an extra projectile when using cast doing double damage. Since I used Ruthless Reflex on this run, I was able to max out Zeus’ lightning and add extra damage to Poseidon’s and Artemis’ knockback and critical combo.
The Good: The extra DPS gives you the extra edge.
The Bad: Please don’t copy me, using the Daedlus Hammer to turn my weapons close-range. I did the same thing with the Adamant Rail Build above.
The Ugly: I guess because I’m playing against my regular type, I’m extra careful and it won me the last two runs.
Twin Fists Build
Infernal Arms: Aspect of Talos Level 1, Darker Thirst
Keepsake: Cosmic Egg
Daedalus Hammer: Breaching Cross and Long Knuckle
Duo: Curse of Longing (Ares and Aphrodite)
Primary Boon: Ares (Blade Dash Level 3, Curse of Agony Level 3, Dire Misfortune, Ares’ Aid)
Secondary Boon: Aphrodite (Heartbreak Flourish Level 3, Life Affirmation)
I’m a little proud of this build because the moment Ares showed up, I made sure he was my primary. The RNG number was really working in my favor as when I used Fated Authority to change the choices, Ares kept popping up. In a way, Aphrodite is fast becoming my favorite support goddess as Weak is probably an underrated status effect. She’s involved in some way activating the Privileged Status skill to combine Doom (Ares) and Weak (Aphrodite) to beat Hades. This is one of the few times I only used one Death Defiance on Hades giving me complete control of the situation. Not bad for CQB.
The Good: Doesn’t need a high skill level to produce results. Special and Attack combo to trigger a high DPS without relying too much on your cast.
The Bad: Requires a lot of setup, Fated Authority is an expensive skill and I had five at the time.
The Ugly: I take back my low opinion on close range weapons.
Eternal Spear Build
Aspect of Hades Level 1
Daedalus Hammer:Extended Jab, Quick Spin
Chaos:Soul, Strike, Flourish
Duo:Vengeful Mood (Zeus and Ares)
Legendary:Fully Loaded (Artemis) and Splitting Bolt (Zeus)
Secondary Boon:Zeus (Heaven’s Vengeance, Thunder Flourish, Static Discharge, High Voltage)
Support Boons:Ares (Engulfing Vortex, Blade Dash, Urge to Kill), Hermes (Side Hustle), Dionysus (Strong Drink, Premium Vintage)
The spear next to the blade has been the last two weapons I’ve cleared a run with. The blade run was a little easier because of a maxed out aspect versus that of the spear. The spear is a tricky weapon that seems to be almost a no-brainer “beginner” weapon with its range and seemingly high CQB damage. However, it’s a cross between a sword and a bow without the benefits of either. The sword allows you more leeway when it comes to using dash, enabling you to weave past enemies and chip them. The sword’s special has a knock back feature that has a small AoE effect. The bow allows you to stay in a safe spot as you snipe away with its special a way to deflect projectiles and keep rushing enemies back with its knock back. The spear, it lacks the defensive and offensive capabilities of the two, but when mastered, it allows you to switch your strategies on the fly. This build compliments it with Artemis’ critical, Zeus’ splash damage, and Ares’ aggressive DPS.
The Good: High offensive power that can change if you want to go close or stay ranged.
The Bad: When you get hit, you get hit hard.
The Ugly: I still can’t incorporate spin attacks with my spear setup, it just doesn’t seem to fit.
Stygian Blade Build
Aspect of Zagreus Level 5
Keepsake: Chthonic Coin Purse
Daedalus Hammer: Shadow Slash, Breaching Slash
Duo: Smoldering Air (Zeus and Athena), Heart Rend(Artemis and Aphrodite)
I’d like to thank the RNG Deity for showering me with all the skills that I needed for this run. Maybe it helped that I made an Ambrosia offering to Zeus and he became my BFF, at least for the next thirty minutes. You can’t get a better build than this with three legendaries and two duos, all I had to do was count to three and spam lightning at Hades. By the end, I wasn’t even using my sword, but when I do, I charm weakened enemies with it and they go to town on each other.
The Good: Legendary Build that will guarantee a win, provided you play it smart.
The Bad: The setup for this is crazy involving a few maxed out passives on the Mirror of Night and a maxed Aspect of Zagreus for the sword, the 15% movement and attack speed is worth it.
The Ugly: How can I even top this build?
That’s it for this guide. Will I be writing an advanced one to explore the hidden reaches of Hades? What lies beyond Erebus? When will I actually see the end credits to this game? When will this game introduce time savers? I’d love to just pay for the damn Titan’s Blood to get it over with. All these cliffhanger questions seem inappropriate at this point. Also share some of your builds on our Facebook Page! It’ll be cool to see what you’ve come up with.