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Our Review Format

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.
“Trash 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.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: January 17, 2020
  • Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC
  • Modes: Single
  • Similar Games: Bits of Dragon Ball Xenoverse and Fighter Z
  • Price: Starts at PHP2,695

Another year, another Dragon Ball Z game. And why not? It’s a franchise that hardly needs any introduction. A household name to anime fans worldwide, Dragon Ball along with its iconic characters and exciting adventures have entertained fans old and new for many years now.

Fast forward to 2020 and we have nearly every type of Dragonball game imaginable, including the fantastic fighting game Dragon Ball FighterZ. New year, new game? You bet, as the latest entry into the Dragon Ball portfolio now introduces a semi open world action RPG that mixes RPG elements with fast paced fighting action that the franchise has been known for. Curious to see how it’s turned out? Here’s our review of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot.

Sparking!

Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, which we’ll refer to DBZ Kakarot moving forward, is an action RPG that retells the story of all the sagas of the Z anime, from the invasion of the Saiyans all the way to the Buu Saga. As you would expect, there are a LOT of things from the Anime that fans can look forward to. From the opening cinematic that lets you rock out to the iconic “Cha-la Head Cha-la” track, you’ll be bombarded one after another with references and “Aha!” moments that is sure to bring a smile to your face.

You will find iconic Dragon Ball locations like Kami’s lookout tower and Capsule Corp., even meet classic side characters like the Pilaf gang and Mr. Popo. It’s quite literally the Saturday afternoon habit we had from about 20 years back turned into a fantastic looking game.

And fantastic would be quite the understatement as the game is very easy on the eyes. Lush mountains, bright cities, wide open plains, Planet Namek… they’re all here and faithfully recreated that you feel like you’re actually sharing the world with these beloved characters and locations.

What adds even more authenticity is being able to play the game in Japanese or English voices, and while both are amazing, there’s just something about Japanese dubs with English subtitles that sweetens the package for us. Pair this with character models that look nearly as perfect as they were from the Anime series along with all of their special moves and you’ve got yourself pure nostalgia goodness packed in a blu-ray disc.

Overall, developers CyberConnect2 has done an admirable job in translating the anime into the game, staying as faithful as possible while adding a few touches here and there to better suit the medium. It’s what makes the game special, but at the same time, it’s what also hinders it from being a great title, which we’ll get to later.

RPG – lite

Now as an action RPG, it’s safe to say Dragon Ball Z Kakarot ticks the basic boxes for an RPG checklist. While it doesn’t have a massive open world, the different areas are big enough to merit exploring and within these areas are quite a number of things to do. From flying around to blasting dinosaurs, from random encounters to sidequests and even collecting the legendary Dragon Balls, it has almost all of the elements of an RPG that fans would want in a game.

Exploration is a mixed bag. Flying around the world looks cool and the sense of speed is well translated, but the world itself doesn’t give you much reason to do so. Z orbs are scattered all throughout the land and will be your main currency when upgrading the numerous skills each character has. Progressing through the storyline naturally will give you enough orbs and at a certain point, you’ll end up with more orbs than you can use which makes spending actual time to collect these not advisable.

There are also random encounters while exploring the world and as is standard with RPG’s, this should be your main source of leveling up in order to progress throughout the game. A good thing though is that grinding is not necessary in the game since the regular story battles will give you enough experience points to naturally progress and even reach the end.

Side quests also abound in the game and will actually show you quite interesting interactions with various characters in the DBZ universe but one thing that’s quite unique to DBZ Kakarot is the Community Board and Soul Emblems.

Throughout the game, you can collect Soul Emblems which you can place on the Community Boards, giving you various bonuses unique to each board. The more emblems you place, the higher the Board’s level goes and each board in the game gives certain buffs, like Chichi’s Cooking Community Board boosting the effectiveness of food items and Goku’s Z-Soldier board providing buffs that will increase your effectiveness in battle.

There’s a bit of strategy involved here but nothing too complex. You’ll get certain bonuses when you place two related Soul Emblems beside each other. Goku and Gohan will get a bonus while placing Kami and Piccolo together will net you the another bonus, adding more stats than usual and allowing you to max your board faster.

Fast paced frenzy

Now Dragon Ball isn’t really Dragon Ball without the over the top and fast paced fights, and you’ll be getting a lot of it here. This isn’t FighterZ but DBZ Kakarot delivers on the intensity and excitement of the fights you’ve grown to love from the franchise. Throughout the story, and it should come as no surprise, you’ll be facing off against some of the classic villains of old – Vegeta and Nappa, Frieza, Cell, and even the mighty Majin Buu. Nope, the more recent opponents won’t be making an appearance (yet) but you’ll get enough here to satisfy fans of the series.

You play from a 3rd Person perspective and lock-on to one enemy at a time where you’re free to unleash ki blasts or 1-button melee combos. You’ll also be free to move around across the playing field in all directions, just like how Goku would in the Anime. The fights give a great sense of freedom and movement as opposed to the 2D FighterZ gameplay, so this is a very welcome variation.

Each character you get to control has their own signature special attack, like Goku’s Kamehameha or Gohan’s Masenko, which can be further upgraded later into stronger variants. Each of these attacks consume Ki, so think about it in RPG terms as mana to cast spells, pretty standard stuff. Don’t fret if you’re not able to access Vegeta’s Final Flash or Goku’s EX Spirit Bomb, these will be available for use later in the story along with their corresponding Super Saiyan transformations!

Some battles throughout story mode will introduce new mechanics such as Recoome’s barrage where the screen changes to a top down view that let’s you see where his attacks will land, prompting you to dodge like crazy. In some instances, you’ll get lucky and time your attack at the same time as your opponent, triggering a power balance mini game where mash the button to push back your enemy’s attack. It’s a Dragon Ball scene that’s as iconic as it gets and is a fantastic touch while battling it out.

Battles are not brainless, as there are quite a number of button presses and combinations you’ll have to access in order to finish the game. While most of the fights will be rather straightforward and will end up having you repeat effective loops of dodging-mashing Circle-Special Attack, certain fights are quite challenging (damn you Dodoria) and will require you to stay on your toes and time your dodges better than usual.

Luckily, you’ll also have access to a Tension meter that, once full, can put you in a Tension state which increases your stats and introduces Super Finishes, extra animations that add some spice to the end result like launching the opponent to space with a Kamehameha.

You can see the care that the developers put into recreating almost every bit of what makes Dragon Ball Z an iconic series into the game but while that’s the case, something feels fundamentally amiss about the title that we’ll try to get into shortly.

It’s NOT over 9000

It would be unfair to push all praises for the game because while it is a new and refreshing direction for the series, part of what makes it good is also what makes it not quite the title we’re looking for.

Overall, the game is wildly inconsistent with what it wants to do and how it does things. As mentioned earlier, exploring the various vast and colorful areas is somewhat fun but apart from being eye candy, there’s really not much interactivity between you and your surroundings. Apart from the usual side quests and shops, there’s really no reason for you to explore. Z orbs are a painfully slow to collect in their own and over time, you’ll be able to gather them naturally with enough extra by the time you finish the game.

Grinding out enemies also is not advisable because at a certain point, you’ll need millions of points of EXP just to raise a level and each random battle is more wait then it is worth. Some RPG’s have you face a wall which you cannot pass if you haven’t leveled up enough but Dragon Ball Z Kakarot tips the scales in your favor so much that you don’t even have to go through ANY random battle to finish the game.

The side quests are also something of a mixed bag. Though they give out some useful items and unlockables, they really aren’t too interesting to keep your attention in check. There are just 2 varieties (fetch or fight) or maybe even a combination of both but it largely feels like not much though was placed into designing these quests, not to mention some of them really feel out of place at times. It just really feels weird that right in the middle of Frieza’s invasion of Namek and during a very tense moment from the anime, that you find a side quests of an alien tourist that happens to be there and is oblivious to everything that’s happening. It would be maybe understandable to find these side quests during the intermissions between story arcs but right in the middle of an important moment in the Frieza arc? Talk about a break of tension.

The story arcs also proved to be somewhat of a detriment to some point given the fact that it provided almost no flexibility for some parts of the game. Now we all know that Goku beats Vegeta during their invasion while Gohan takes the spotlight fighting Cell, but that’s just it. The game introduces some sort of party system which you cannot use outside of intermissions (free roam time boxes outside of the story arcs) so having your dream team of a combination of any 3 characters won’t happen just because the story arc dictates that it’s Goku and Frieza who fight in the end.

Now speaking of story arcs, you definitely can’t find fault in the adaptation of those in Kakarot because they’re as faithful as they come but it just would’ve been nice if they retained some of the quirky moments that gave the show personality. For those looking for it, hate to burst your bubble but you won’t hear Vegeta say the famous “OVER 9000” line or see the Ginyu Force do their trademark dance that weirded even Frieza out.

By wanting to stick to the story arcs too much, DBZ Kakarot wasted opportunities to further add drama and improve on some scenes to make the experience much more epic. It was quite a cringey moment to some character meet their death only to have the music stay the same or the look on their faces be as deadpan as can be. While a few moments were certainly spot on, like Goku breaching Super Saiyan against Frieza, we wished the same treatment could have been done with the other dramatic moments in the game.

The loading times in the game are quite atrocious as well, prompting you to load everytime you fast travel to another area, which you’ll be doing often throughout the course of this 30+ hour journey. The game will hang on you sometimes while loading and you’ll encounter some frame dips while exploring but it’s quite notable that during the battles, you’ll be enjoying the pace and flow unbothered for the most part.

What we liked:

  • Story arcs are faithfully retold
  • Intro sequence is a fantastic tribute
  • Fighting sequences are fun

What we didn’t like:

  • Amount of loading times are a pain
  • Game is very inconsistent
  • Fights can be reduced to a simple and repetitive loop

Verdict: Wait for it…

It was really a tough call on what to score DBZ Kakarot. On one hand, they did a really good job of recreating the world of Dragon Ball Z, characters and battles and all. On the other, these stories have been retold over and over again, prompting Nostalgia to carry the heavy load which can get tiring over time. Sure, those who are new to the DBZ lore will appreciate this but the game can only get you so far, especially with it not knowing what it wants to be. With half baked RPG mechanics and a story arc that forces its inflexibility on you, DBZ Kakarot is a game that has great potential given the right tweaks and fixes but for now, it’s quite hard to recommend it at full price to relive something that’s nearly 30 years old over again.

Our Review Format

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.
“Trash 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.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: November 28, 2019
  • Platforms: Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC
  • Modes: Single
  • Similar Games: Super Robot Wars
  • Price: Starts at PHP3,195

SD Gundam G Generation Cross Rays, or just simply Cross Rays from here on out, is the latest entry in this long-running tactical RPG series based on the massively popular Mobile Suit Gundam franchise. If by any chance you haven’t heard about Gundam yet, it’s a well known and long running anime series about war where the main weapons used are giant robots called mobile suits, with an emphasis on the story and characters and how war affects them. So famous, in fact, that it basically created its own genre called the Real Robot anime and many have followed in its footsteps. Gundam has spawned multiple series but the common denominator is the titular Gundam robot with it’s iconic design and flashy battles.

As a franchise, Gundam has branched out to other mediums like toys and video games, and with Cross Rays being just one of them, how does the game stand among the rest of the Gundam properties? Let’s find out in this review.

Lore Galore!

Cross Rays takes four popular Gundam Alternate Universe series and packs them in one game, where you play through each of their individual stories in a more condensed manner. The narration is presented through text and some voice overs over static images, which is your standard fare and is pretty much expected for a game such as this.

You have your choice of either Gundam Wing, Gundam Seed, Gundam 00, or Gundam Iron-Blooded Orphans, and the game even includes the side stories from each series like Gundam Wing Endless Waltz and Gundam Seed Stargazer. For newcomers, you’ll be in for some interesting war stories and mecha action but for fans of the alternate universe Gundam stories it’ll be like a reunion once again reliving the stories of famous Gundam characters like Kira Yamato or Setsuna F. Seiei to name a few.

Stories across the series are well told and will appease even hardcore fans, as the faithful retelling is something that really shines for the game. Memorable characters will make an appearance along with their trademark mobile suits, albeit in SD or Super Deformed / Chibi form. For most players, the most recognizable series would be Gundam Wing which features the like of Heero Yuy and his trademark Wing Gundam and Duo Maxwell, pilot of the Deathscythe. You may also want to give Gundam Seed a look as it features the iconic rivals Kira Yamato and Athrun Zala, pilots of the Strike Freedon Gundam and the Infinite Justice respectively.

Back to Basics

Cross Rays is a turn based tactical RPG where you place your units in a grid – moving, positioning, and attacking enemy units and winning by fulfilling certain conditions, mostly involving defeating all enemy units. Units have Hit Points or HP that drain with each attack, Energy Points or EN that govern attacks, and chances to hit or evade attacks that are shown by percentages on screen. There’s a lot of numbers to cover but the gameplay is pretty basic and is your standard fare of tactical RPG’s where you take turns with the enemy goal of meeting the mission objective before they meet theirs.

If you’ve seen gameplay of the very similar Super Robot Wars series, another popular tactical RPG series in Japan, then you’ve already got an idea of how Cross Rays will play out, with the main difference being its focus on Gundams. There is a sense of depth as you’ll need to manage your units that you obtain, assigning pilots and forming teams that sortie into battle. You may get a tendency to get carried away as compared to the nameless grunts you fight on the field, Gundams have powerful attacks and high evades just like their counterparts in their respective anime series, unless you’re fighting another Gundam. And the game does a good job of translating the Gundams’ characteristics into the game. A few examples being the Buster Gundam from Seed being weak to close range attacks since it’s a long range artillery type, and in contrast the Gundam Exia from 00 being a close range specialist.

One thing about Cross Rays is that you can “scout” certain characters and make them part of your entourage. As you do, these pilots can level up and you may assign them to any MS (or mobile suit) you wish to. Of course it would be tempting to mix and match pilots with any MS but logically speaking, placing someone like Lockon Stratos on a ranged MS (because he’s a Sniper) will be beneficial for you over other MS.

No matter how badass your Gundams and pilots are, poor decisions can still lead to defeat. An interesting concept too is that your actions have an effect in battle. Completely defeating an enemy grants you an extra turn (up to 2 times) which is very useful. If you’re smart enough you can use this extra turn feature to prolong your turn and deal massive losses to the enemy.

Constantly defeating enemies and successfully evading attacks also increases your unit’s morale which increases your attacks, letting you deal critical damage that are high enough to sometimes destroy an enemy mobile suit in 1 move, as long as you can avoid getting hit and the opposite is also true. Meaning getting hit or failing to evade lowers unit morale which also decreases your Gundam’s performance. Perks like these will really motivate you to plan your moves carefully to win.

Aside from the usual “defeat everyone” conditions, the game presents you too with optional objectives like for example, defeat 10 enemies within 3 turns, which rewards you with a bonus after the fight. Don’t expect a walk in the park as the battles can get pretty intense which is just right if you’re looking for a challenge. Luckily, and strangely for that matter, whenever you play certain stories you have the option to sortie Gundams that aren’t from that particular series, choosing from the teams that you’ve formed and managed in between chapters. Having the Phoenix Gundam and Tornado Gundam fight alongside the Strike in the opening chapters of the Gundam Seed story path definitely didn’t happen, but still being able to sortie extra units is a big help.

What we liked:

  • Faithful retelling of the Gundam stories featured in the game
  • Sounds and voices were retained from each respective Gundam series
  • Challenging tactical action and optional win conditions encourage replayability

What we didn’t like:

  • Graphics look outdated for a current gen title
  • Rest of the music is forgettable
  • Nothing new or innovative

Verdict:

Cross Rays is a tricky game to definitively say whether its a must buy or not. For the most part, Cross Rays and its past games are definitely for the hardcore Gundam fan as what’s on the table is exactly what the fans want and will get. The individual Gundam stories are retold faithfully that you can spot certain scenes and dialogue, the voice actors from each series are there delivering their iconic lines, and the battles are presented in fluid 3D animation that shows off how majestic each of them are.

Fanservice though can only get you too far as if you look through all that, the backgrounds and animations are mediocre and they tend to get very repetitive. For a current generation console title, the graphics do look like they could be done from the PS3, and maybe even the generation before that. Music in the game too can’t be considered memorable. Some of the battle themes are forgettable, with the ones that will stick being those that came from certain Gundam series, and there are definitely some tracks there that will be familiar to a Gundam fan.

Overall, Cross Rays is a hard sell to a wide audience. For anyone that is extremely curious about Gundam, it is a safe bet to wait for this to go on sale as mainly the game isn’t bad at all, it just doesn’t do anything very groundbreaking either. Actually if you’re only after the story, better just watch their individual series. This is recommended more to the fans of tactical RPGs and Gundam and definitely if that’s what you’re after Cross Rays won’t disappoint.

*SD Gundam G Generation Cross Rays was reviewed on a PS4 Pro through a review code provided by the publisher*

Our Review Format

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.
“Trash 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.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: October 25, 2019
  • Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC
  • Modes: Single
  • Similar Games: Fallout
  • Price: Starts at PHP3,190

Obsidian Entertainment is known for coming up with great games based on existing intellectual properties. Fallout: New Vegas is considered one of the better titles in the franchise, and the same level of praise was given to South Park: The Stick of Truth for its faithfulness to the source material. Obsidian also dipped their hands in creating original games like Pillars of Eternity and while it didn’t receive the same amount of success as their other titles, they’ve proven to be a group that has great stories to tell.

Obsidian diving into another original IP was quite the news that turned some heads. Announced to be developed by the original creators of Fallout, this is a game that definitely caught the attention of the gaming community, seeing if they can pull off making a new intellectual property different from the famous post-nuclear RPG series that put them on the gaming map. And did they deliver? Let’s jump right in.

Fallout: Outer Space?

The Outer Worlds takes place in the Halcyon Colony, a collection of worlds light years away from Earth. Controlled by the Board, a group of Corporations that pooled their resources together to buy this colony which gives them control over everything and everyone in it, Halcyon leads a dreary lifestyle, contrary to all the commercials littered across the world. That’s Capitalism for you!

You play the role of an unknown colonist, thawed out of hibernation from “The Hope”, a colony ship that was left for dead after missing its skip space (basically lightspeed travel) and deemed unprofitable to save. Your savior is one Phineas Welles, eccentric scientist and wanted by the Board. His reasons are fairly simple: he needs your help to wake up your fellow colonists on the Hope as this collection of Earth’s most brilliant minds are the key to making life better for everyone on the Halcyon Colony, else the Board’s merciless and greedy iron grip brings it to ruin.

Eventually you take control of your own ship and assemble a crew from different parts of the colony, all while earning a few bucks on the side. It’s the start of your story, but how you play it out is completely up in the air. Sure you were freed from hibernation to save a Colony, but you’re not exactly obligated to follow that narrative to the letter. There is a main quest to follow, as well as different side quests that you get from NPC’s or your own crew members but how to complete them and who you side with is going to be your choice. Want to follow the program and become the heroic saviour of the Halycon Colony alongside Welles? Go ahead hero. Feeling a bit more evil and want to side instead with the Board? Yes you can, you corporate sellout. Not really feeling like the heroic type and just go with whichever sides pays better? You can even be your very own Han Solo.

Superior storytelling

Obsidian is known for their well developed story telling, and they deliver again with that here in The Outer Worlds. While the fate of the colony is in your hands, you may be tempted to breeze through the main storyline, but feel free to take a lot of detours since every side quest you tackle are fulfilling stories of their own and help flesh out the world and its characters. As such, you can expect lots of witty and funny dialogue mixed in with some rather disturbing stories, an Obsidian special.

You’ll be especially motivated to tackle your crew’s individual side quests as this lets you get to know them better, and your crew is definitely quite the colorful bunch. From the pious but violent Vicar Max who is out for answers to his existence, to your naive but kind hearted ship engineer Parvati who may need your help to woo that special someone. The freedom to craft your own narrative is astounding and the world fully complements each tale as you lie, persuade, or threaten your way to decide the fate of the Halyon Colony.

The character creation is the standard fare but Obsidian gave it more flavor by letting Phineas Welles make witty comments as he considers who to choose from the thousands of hibernating colonists, giving you a taste of the very well written dialogue that you’re going to get for the rest of the game. As you assign points to your charisma or strength, Phineas will comment on how smart or dumb you are. You can take away some intelligence points, thereby making you an idiot, but you could also be a charismatic idiot on the other hand. It’s only one possibility among many ways to shape your character’s personality.

After thawing you out and dropping you on your way, it’s now up to you to arm yourself as talking isn’t exactly going to protect you all the time from the different wildlife and hostile elements of the world. Expect to pick up a lot of weapons along the way from your standard handguns to sniper rifles and even sabres. Similar to Borderlands, weapons have certain manufacturers but the similarities end there as there really isn’t any other distinguishing factor. Spacer’s Choice, for example, is known as a brand for the budget conscious as their products are cheap but not really dependable quality wise, but they work and shoot the same. If anything, it really shows how up effort Obsidian put to flesh out the world but its actual effect in game have very minimal bearing.

Ammo won’t be an issue as you can pick them up almost everywhere around the colony. Just be careful when picking up items where you obviously can’t, like a general store, or prepare to try and talk, or shoot, your way out of trouble. This is where your choices will come in, as where you place your hard earned skill points when you level up will dictate the kind of character you are. Putting points in your charisma and technique will make you a proficient talker that will give you persuade or intimidate choices when talking to someone. Levelling up your technical skills can make you proficient in hacking to be able to get access to unaccessible doors or computers for that added information or hidden weapons, and there are lots of these in the game.

Interestingly enough, The Outer Worlds has a setting called Supernova difficulty, which may very well drive you to the edge. It’s definitely for the bravest of space farers out there because aside from tougher enemies, your crew can die permanently in fights, and fast travel and saving will only be available when you’re on your ship. And like any real person, you will need to eat, drink, and sleep to survive. Not to mention sleeping is only possible on your ship, meaning beds you find out in the Halcyon are not available to you. This merits a whole new style of gameplay and not just a simple increase in enemy damage and HP that most difficulty settings provide, it is very well executed and is something noteworthy.

Average everything else

While the dialogue and writing in The Outer Worlds can be phenomenal, the same can’t be said of the actual gameplay. It isn’t bad per se, just not something to write home about, especially considering how high the narrative set the bar. At its core, The Outer Worlds is a first person shooter RPG and it does its job in that department fairly well. Numerous mods are available to customize various aspects of your firearm like damage but falls short since the game doesn’t make you feel like you really need it. Outer Worlds also has a borrowed feature from Fallout called Tactical Time Dilation, a gameplay mechanic explained in the narrative as a side effect of being thawed out where you’re able to slow down time giving you better aiming. It’s basically the VATS system if it sounds strangely familiar.

Gunplay is also average, as it doesn’t feel as crisp as it could have but there are some interesting additions to your arsenal that more than makes up for it. Hidden weapons called “Science weapons” are not your standard weapons and have unique features like the Shrink Ray which obviously shrinks your enemies making them more susceptible to damage, or the gloop gun which makes your enemies bounce in the air making them easy targets. They’re interesting additions that make gunplay varied enough to actually get into.

If you’re not new to first person shooters too then you’ll feel right at home as all the standard strafes, crouches, and jumps are there. There’s even a feature which allows you to jump and dodge left, right, or back for added mobility. You’ll need all the help you can get to brave all the hostiles the world is going to throw at you. Aside from the usual corporate guards and crazy marauders, Halycon Colony is also made up of natural wildlife so also expect alien creatures like Sprats, Mantisaurs, and Primates and even to the more robotic Mechanicals. The variety of baddies in the game not quite as diverse as you would expect, with some being just reskins across different planets.

Your playstyle will determine how you progress through the game, but you don’t have to do it alone. Your crew isn’t just for show as you can bring up to two with you when travel across the colony and you can trust them with your life as your AI controlled companions are just as competent in a fight. You can even command them to execute their own unique special moves, with your resident tough guy Felix’s special move as one that must be seen to be believed. It’s even an added bonus how the two companions you bring can sometimes have their own unique dialogue with each other, again another testament to how well Obsidian can build the world and its inhabitants through fantastic writing.

If you’re tired of all the action, you can just sit back too and soak in the sights and sounds as The Outer Worlds offers a variety of space locales to experience, from the rundown Edgewater town to the wide open Scylla. There’s loads of different areas to explore in the Outer Worlds, although don’t expect something too big. While the Halcyon Colony may not be that vast, it’s definitely big enough to pique your interest.

The Outer Worlds is good, but it’s by all means not perfect. There are certain things that the game could have been better, some very simple quality of life things in fact. For example, while there’s a fast travel feature that can cut your travel time, the lack of a custom waypoint is really noticeable. Load times are an issue as well – while transitioning to a new area, inside of a town, a new planet, and pretty much any place else – load times are plentiful and really break the momentum of the game. It’s understandable that some optimization could be done post-launch, but issues like these really stick out like a sore thumb.

There’s also a considerable lack of variety in armor designs, as well as the fact that you can only change helmets and armors. Forget about having your own unique look, you just can’t. If and when you’re finally able to find a set you fancy, the inventory screen is the only place where you’ll be able to marvel at your character as there’s no 3rd person camera option at all. It’s not exactly a game breaking feature, but surely it’s a welcome addition.

What we liked:

  • Superb writing and character development
  • Competent AI teammates

What we didn’t like:

  • Armor designs could use more variety
  • Gameplay is average compared to the writing

Verdict: Wait for it…

Overall, The Outer Worlds was an interesting ride. Despite some of the noticeable flaws, wanting to know how your journey ends and the fantastic writing both play a huge part in the positive experience that will push you to keep going. For a new IP, Obsidian did an admirable job with introducing The Outer Worlds and only time will tell how much better it could be but for this installment, there’s still so much polish to be had and improvements here and there to make the game a more viable purchase.

At it’s current state and price point, and this may be quite controversial, we think that it would be better to wait for it. While the writing and storytelling is great, everything else is pretty average, decent enough to make you play all the way through. It doesn’t really have that WOW factor that will make you fall in love with it off the bat. If anything, The Outer Worlds is very much worth a purchase on sale so if you managed to take advantage of the recently concluded Black Friday sale, then you’ve got a good game just waiting to be played.

Our Review Format

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.
“Trash 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.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: October 17, 2019
  • Platforms: Playstation 4
  • Modes: Single
  • Similar Games: Devil May Cry
  • Price: Starts at PHP2,199

The Monkey King Son Wukong is a famous literary Chinese figure with notable impact, being the inspiration for Dragon Ball’s Son Goku for example. So yeah, you could kinda say that he’s a big deal. Big enough to warrant a PS4 game though? To be honest, the game was a huge unknown for me. Coming from such releases such as Call of Duty, Ghost Recon Breakpoint, and WWE2K20 over the past month, this slipped under the radar for most due to such high profile titles during its release window. And so like a dutiful reviewer, I did a little research and dug into the game to bring you our short yet sweet review of Monkey King: Hero is Back!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UmFMYT2g3B0

For the uninitiated, the game tells the story of the Chinese Legend of Son Wukong, a powerful but arrogant monkey who defied the gods because of his power and as a result was imprisoned by Buddha in a cage of ice for 500 years. Apparently, what I also found out was that the game is based on a 2015 animated movie produced in China, which became such a massive hit in the box office! Fancy that? As with movie based games, it’s a well known fact that the record for success has been abyssmal. Surprisingly enough, Monkey King: Hero is Back is quite serviceable, albeit a bit too easy and kiddie for my taste.

The game pretty much follows the movie’s plot as the Monkey King Sun Wukong is freed from his ice prison by a young boy, Liuer, who enlists his help to free kidnapped children from an evil Lord. Naturally, the arrogant monkey doesn’t give a hoot until he was told he must do good deeds to undo the seal on his powers.

The game, like the movie, gives off a very Dreamworks style vibe. The graphics and character designs look like something you’d see in Kung Fu Panda, as it would have mostly the same Eastern references. At first glance, the graphics leave a little more to be desired, with jagged edges and washed up colors. It’s a shame, because some of the set pieces in the game actually look good. For a game that’s released at nearly the end cycle of the current console generation, the graphical quality was sub par, as there are Indie games with smoother and shinier eye candy.

It’s also a nice touch that you can play the game in either English, Japanese, or Chinese for that more authentic feel. It’s not a new feature by any means, as most of the games now have been localized to support various languages but for this game in particular, with its lore rooted in Chinese legends, the implementation is quite well done. The voice talents in the different languages are all notable but I personally played through the game in English and still found the overall quality of the voice acting to be pretty good, which is quite rare in English dubbed games.

Gameplay, badly put, feels like a simplified Devil May Cry title. Monkey King is an action adventure platformer with linear progression, collecting Earth Gods as you go along. It pays off, as you can use these to increase your stats, as well as acquire various crafting items that you exchange for resources that replenish your health and magic.

The combat is as simple as you can get, with basic and strong attacks, but an interesting aspect is the parry system where hitting the light or strong attack button at the point of an enemy’s attack will trigger either a one-on-one mini game or a purge attack that defeats your opponent in one blow. It’s actually fun to trigger these one-on-one attacks so you can see the different ways Son Wukong dispatches his foes, with some being actually funny! The downside to this is that as simple as the battle system is, sometimes it all boils down to parrying everything and seeing the mini game over and over again, which makes the whole process quite tedious and repetitive.

There is a noticeable lack of a lock-on feature though but it didn’t really take away too much, because the game is rather easy. While most of the grunts can be defeated in such simple fashion, other enemies will require a stealthier approach. Each of the 4 bosses in the game can be defeated just as easily and the only time I felt some level of difficulty was when I wasn’t paying attention. We’re not bragging by saying this but it certainly gives the impression that this is a game catered to the more casual or younger audiences. In that sense, the game does its job exceedingly well.

Over the course of my playthrough, I noticed the huge amount of loading times for the game. Almost all areas required loading, from going to a new area to entering a house and even the simple act of climbing or going down ladders. I don’t mean to sound overly pessimistic but other games that have far higher quality textures and assets have less loading prompts, telling me that the game was not optimized properly. It really bogged down the pace of the game and

As this is also a platformer, I had my fair share of personal battles with the camera, resulting in failed attempts where normally there wouldn’t be any. Couple that with his abnormally short jump animation and slow running,  it makes for quite the frustrating experience all things considered.

Your AI companions are not of much help either. Aside from giving out obvious hints, Liuer and Zhu Bajie don’t really offer any help and may can come off as really annoying, especially when they start screaming as monsters appear.

There are a lot of minor gripes that add up, making what could have been a fairly good experience into an average outing.

What we liked:

  • Writing is decent, with splashes of witty humor
  • Cartoony graphics fit the overall theme well
  • Decent voice work and music

What we didn’t like:

  • Numerous load times
  • Most may find it too easy
  • Camera is a bit of a pain at times
  • Almost useless AI companions

Verdict: Wait for it…

Overall, for a movie tie-in, Monkey King: Hero is Back isn’t a bad game. The graphics are pretty decent and give off the feel of an interactive Dreamworks movie. The music is fitting and atmospheric, perfect for the story which isn’t overly complex and actually quite touching at times! The combat could use some work because while it is serviceable, the overall game lends itself to be too simple, making the experience a 10-15 hour ho-hum affair. It’s not bad by any means, but it ain’t something I’d happily purchase at full price. If by any chance you’ve seen the movie, then I see very little reason to play this game unless you wanted something more interactive. That said, we recommend picking this up at a hugely discounted price as a filler in between the big game releases.

*Monkey King: Hero is Back was reviewed on a PS4 Pro through a review code provided by the publisher.

Our Review Format

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.
“Trash 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.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: October 22, 2019
  • Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC
  • Modes: Single / Multiplayer
  • Similar Games: WWE 2K Series
  • Price: Starts at PHP3,190

Another year, another wrestling game. For me, it’s supposed to be a nostalgia trip. Having enjoyed WWE up to its Attitude era, I enjoyed the games that came out back then like WWF Attitude and Smackdown on the PS1. Fast forward to today where I could hardly recognize anyone anymore, it was such a huge culture shock to see the WWE in its current state. A whole new slew of wrestlers including some badass women, out of this world storylines and gimmicks, and even stunts so wild that you can’t help but wince at the sight. The long lost fan in me was stirring, but WWE 2K20 was probably not the best way to get me back into the squared circle.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vg35uxyVpAs

You may have already heard about how much of a disasterpiece this game is, but it’s not without its merits.

To be fair about it, WWE2K20 is still pretty much the standard wrestling package you’ve come to enjoy over the past years. There are numerous single and multiplayer modes and matches to choose from, like your usual one-on-one and falls count anywhere to the chaotic Royal Rumble. If you’ve ever watched a pay per view that offered some match with not so “normal” conditions, chances are you’ll be able to play it here as well. Modes are plentiful and at least for this part, there’s a lot of variety to go around.

The game also keeps track of stats like your most used wrestlers so my playtime will show what age I grew up in since it’s mostly the familiar names like Rey Mysterio or Kane. Hey, I did say I was a WWF baby. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

MyCareer was a particular highlight for me because it was the mode where I could partially fulfill a fantasy, as I’m sure most of the wrestling fans out there would feel the same. We’ve all had our brief moments when we thought we could pull of those things in the safety of our own home and MyCareer is the closest thing we could get to seeing our a representation of us in the ring.

In this mode you can customize quite a number of things for your up and coming superstar.  Appearance, ring entrances, move set…  most anything wrestling related that you can think of is here. There’s actually more to unlock using points that you gain as you play, which you can also use to unlock more wrestlers to choose from. To be honest, it’s all fun and games until you get to actually see your creation. Or anything else for that matter.

I had to do a double take. Is my PS1 or PS2 switched on? Was I suddenly thrust 10 years back? WWE2K20, for lack of a better term, featured graphics that had no reason to exist in this day and age. The character models, the arenas, the backstage, the faces… There’s just no way around it, the graphics look downright horrible and not something worthy of the current or even the previous generation. Clunky animation and bad collision detection plague the game as well, as you’ll see your wrestler have their own match with the ropes for quite a number of times that we wouldn’t want to count.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRF8X3qg0Xk

Compared to most sports games, part of wrestling’s appeal relies on the showboating, flashy costumes, bright arenas, and the wrestlers themselves and while the costumes look great for some like Bray “The Fiend” Wyatt, I really can’t say the same for some of the face models or even just the overall graphical quality of the game. It’s a total letdown to see the game fail so much on this department, especially since the customization options are plentiful and there is quite a lot to play around with.

It’s a damn shame, because barring the outdated graphics and bugs, the game does offer some semblance of fun. If you’re a first timer, the controls have a pretty steep learning curve due to the numerous commands you can execute and like any fighting game, you’ll need to dedicate some practice to get good in (and sometimes out) of the ring. Once you get the hang of it though, it’ll feel like second nature.

Apart from the standard set of moves, you can also execute a well time button counter to perform a flashy finisher to seal the match and the game actually captures the rush of adrenaline when successfully pulling off these maneuvers. It’s a good feeling to be had, especially since you’ll get countered pretty bad if you don’t pull it off, so these moments were actually great highlights during matches even if they are few and far in between. The game also does a good job of capturing the overall feel of watching a WWE match, thanks to the replays as well as the competent Commentary.

Circling back to MyCareer, unlike in NBA 2K20 where the story for the latest installment was an actual improvement, WWE2K20 falls flat like a failed frog splash. The story is nothing to write home about and the writing is pretty questionable overall. “That’s right, I’m going to give your grandmother bed sores”? Graphical problems aside, the bad voice acting and mismatched timings on the spoken lines during dialogue make it feel like watching a dubbed telenovela that gets tiring pretty quickly.

You can really see extremes in production value here and unfortunately, WWE2K20 gets the very short end of the stick not just in MyCareer, but in the overall package that I’m sure Roman Reigns would have probably said “I can’t I won’t” if he knew it was going to end up this way.

What we liked:

  • Decent customization options
  • Core gameplay is actually fun when it works properly

What we didn’t like:

  • It’s like the game never passed quality assurance
  • Outdated graphics and clunky collision detection
  • Cringey MyCareer writing and story

Verdict: Trash it!

I’ll be honest here, I really wanted to like WWE2K20. It’s been a while since I’ve played a Wrestling game and those memories were nothing but fun but it was a huge disappointment for me to see and play this installment of the long running series at its current state. Wrestling is a heavily theatrical and visual experience but the presentation and blandness of it all makes it really hard to recommend it as a full priced purchase. I’m uneasy recommending it even at 50% off because of some other titles out there that would be a better $30 purchase over this one.

If you’re a hardcore WWE fan then by all means. As mentioned, the core gameplay is fun IF and when it works properly. And I guess looking at the bright side of things, seeing your wrestler do his thing with the ropes would technically count as entertainment, but even then I’d still at least recommend waiting for a sale. A big, big, big, discounted sale. The fun can only last for so long, especially if you have to put up with graphics like that.

*WWE2K20 was reviewed on a PS4 Pro through a review code provided by the publisher.

Our Review Format

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.
“Trash 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.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: November 8, 2019
  • Platforms: Playstation 4, PC in 2020
  • Modes: Single player with online features
  • Similar Games: Metal Gear Solid V
  • Price: Starts at PHP2,999

How do I even start with Death Stranding? Star studded cast led by Norman Reedus, Mads Mikkelsen, and Lea Seydoux. Creepy baby in a pod. Delivery simulator. All sorts of assumptions could have been made about what the game was and we would have barely even scratched the surface.

We’re exactly a week away from the launch and almost everyone, save for us reviewers, still know very little about the game due to this intentional marketing tactic by Kojima and Sony. I actually bought into it and purposely went into the game blind, avoiding videos and trailers that popped up left and right. I wanted to preserve as much of a fresh game experience as I could and was successful to a certain degree.

Before we dive into the review, know that I WILL NOT be discussing any part or aspect of the story whatsoever, except for a very short premise. Death Stranding demands that you experience the story for yourself, creating your own understanding of the world and its events. I’ll let you discover it on your own but without spoiling anything, expect extreme levels of mindf***ery, as it is a well known Kojima trademark. I mean, you’ve seen the FLYING WHALES, right??? Heck, I’ve finished the game already and I don’t even know the meaning to about half of what went down! We’ll be discussing everything in between, so let’s get right to it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCI396HyhbQ&has_verified=1

It’s no secret that the goal in Death Stranding is to reconnect a fractured society. This isn’t a spoiler, as it’s literally plastered across most of the trailers that have been released. For purposes of this review, all you’ll need to know about the story is that Sam Bridges, portrayed by Norman Reedus, will be traveling from coast to coast in order to rebuild America. With what? Why? How? Again, I highly encourage you find out on your own. Not because I can’t explain it, but because a Kojima game requires personal immersion and first hand experience. It’s an integral part of the whole that makes the overall experience such a satisfying one.

By that statement alone, you may have already guessed what our rating for the game is, but read on to find out how we got there. For transparency, we finished the game in 41 hours and 40 minutes playing under Normal difficulty.

“Let’s tell the truth, just for once…”

Starting out, I would hardly call this game a blast, at least for the first few chapters. As a personal rule, I always allow a game to draw me in during the first 4-6 hours. If I’m not satisfied with the pace or the action, I’ll move on to the next. Death Stranding took me well over 8-10 hours to finally get into the groove of things. I’ll be brutally honest with you, if this wasn’t a Kojima game, I would have stopped.

I’m glad I didn’t.

The gameplay of Death Stranding will be very controversial for most players. You’ll either love it or hate it. Death Stranding, for the most part, is a HUGE fetch quest. Bring this from point A to point B. Almost all, if not all, of the missions revolve around you bringing something over to a designated location. Whether it’s resources or hardware or even a pizza that you shouldn’t carry sideways, the most basic point of the game is for you to deliver something to someone. And why not, you are a porter after all.

Death Stranding takes a lot of cues from Metal Gear Solid V, most noticeably the mission based progression. Before a delivery, you’ll be able to choose your “loadout” based on conditions along the way. Running through a mountainous region? It may be wise to bring a couple of ladders to make the climb easier. Expecting some resistance in between routes? Best equip yourself with a weapon to even out the odds. In my experience, a lot of the missions can be completed without obsessing over your loadout but if you’re always aiming for good ratings, this is an important step before heading out.

Deliveries take on many different forms and variations. You can only carry so much weight on your back, so you can choose to hand carry some items or even attach them to your suit. Managing how much you carry on a mission is key because it will dictate how mobile you can be. Carrying cargo on your back frees up your hands but if you stumble over, the packages will suffer damage, unlike when carried by hand. While walking, you’ll tend to lose balance and you’ll need to shift your weight left and right via the L2 R2 buttons. The control scheme is very intuitive and responsive, no complaints here whatsoever, the game handles like a dream.

When you’re unloading groceries and don’t want to make another run…

There’s also a stamina gauge you’ll need to keep track of and this will serve as your guide on whether you’ll need to take a quick rest or keep going. Stamina will deplete faster when performing certain actions such as crossing shallow waters or silencing your breathing.  There’s quite a number of things to consider when finishing up a delivery, but don’t fret because it’s nothing too complicated and you’ll easily get the hang of it after a few missions.

As with a game that emphasizes travelling through huge plots of land, the map menu plays a huge role, allowing you to see surrounding areas and topography, weather conditions, and will let you plot routes you can take. It’s very useful and holds a bunch of information that can help you, so choose to use it as much as you can.

Completing deliveries will net you certain points depending on various criteria. If your mission was to deliver a package in the least amount of time, then completing the trip faster will get you a higher rating which then results in you leveling up, increasing various aspects of your character like the max capacity you can carry, balance, longer time before you get tired, etc. Whether you choose to complete deliveries on foot or using vehicles is all up to you, just know that there are options you can take if you feel like you’re tired of walking.

Cargo: Porter didn’t talk to me during our trip, 5 stars.

Sound exciting enough yet? I’m not one to mince words so whether you believe me or not is a choice you’ll have to make but this core gameplay loop really bored the hell out of me during the earlier parts of the game. I was not invested enough in the world that Kojima was building just yet to get through this section without catching some shut eye in between.

“But this is Death Stranding, one of the most anticipated games of 2019, or maybe even ever. Is that all there is to it?!”

“Let’s open up to the sky…”

Still looking for what makes the game so special? It’s everything else in between.

The world you’ll be exploring is very empty, and by empty I mean you won’t see anything else other than you, the environment, and facilities scattered in between. No semblance of other players, hardly any personal appearances by NPC’s… It’s just you and your cargo for the better part of the game.

Vast fields, snow capped mountains, steep slopes, rocky crevices… It’s almost empty to a fault. The world isn’t filled with enemies either, although there are a few here and there which we’ll get to later, but know that one of your main challenges in the game will be the environment. Ever played Skyrim? Ever tried getting from point to point via a straight line instead of following to proper path, even with a mountain in between? You’ll be trying to do a LOT of that here but this time around, you’ve got help in the form of ladders and climbing ropes and other apparatus that you or other players will be laying down. Again, traversing the world isn’t exactly the most exciting thing to do and if the sound of this turns you off, then I’m sorry buddy, the game will feel like a chore for the next 40 hours, maybe even more.

I have to climb THAT?!

During deliveries you’ll experience what the game calls Timefall, which is basically rain or snow that will deal damage to your cargo as it is exposed to the elements. This affects your mission rating, preventing you from possibly getting that S rank for the mission. Timefall not only affects your cargo but the surrounding terrain as well. Rain will make it more slippery to cross some areas, wading through snow will also slow you down and will cover rocky parts of the terrain that could cause you to lose balance.

Perhaps the biggest effect of rain is the appearance of BT’s, or Beached Things as the game calls it. Rain signals the emergence of the first type of enemy you’ll face in the game. You may have seen these in the trailers, some sort of apparition that you normally wouldn’t be able to see if not for your BB, or Bridge Baby, and your trusty mechanical sensor or Odradek. Early on in the game you’re left defenseless against BT’s but this won’t last long, as you’ll soon be able to fend for yourself as the story progresses via some “weird” weapons. Trust me, weird is the gentlest word I can say.

BT’s aren’t as challenging as you would think, but stealth will be key. Crouching will lessen the sound of your footsteps but you’ll need to be even more silent so that the BT’s don’t track you as they are attracted to sound. Another “tool” in your arsenal is the ability to cover your mouth for added silence but be warned that this depletes your stamina gauge so move about smartly.  If and when caught by a BT, you’ll need to make your way out of this pool of tar that they conjure up or else they’ll drag you down to your death. It’s easily one of the more tense moments in the game that will keep you on your toes as you head to your delivery point.

Your BB, or Bridge Baby, plays an important role in spotting out BT’s from afar. As with any other thing being exposed to these ghosts of sorts, your BB will suffer from what the game calls Autotoxemia which increases its stress levels and if you don’t soothe or rock the baby to ease then you’ll have to make do with exploring the world without its help. It’s a nice touch that furthers your connection with your BB and while some may find it wildly unnecessary, it’s part of the experience that is not tedious to do at all. Your BB is not just a simple tool or device, as you may have guessed, so you’ll learn to warm up to it as the story progresses.

The second type of enemy you’ll be encountering will be what the game calls “Mule’s”, human counterparts of BT’s that are more interested in your cargo than you. They’ll come at you with weapons and in groups but you’ll have a number of items at your disposal to deal with them. Stealth, similar to BT’s, will be your best weapon here as there are tall patches of grass where you can hide and sneak up on them to knock them out, using your trusty rope “Strand” for some close quarters combat. Alternatively, you’ll be able to equip a bola gun quite early in the game, tying them up and incapacitating them for a bit. Other weapons will be available but taking another cue from Metal Gear, you’ll want to avoid attacking them with lethal weapons to lessen BT spawns the next time around. Customize your loadout well to account for sticky situations and you’ll breeze right through them.

Dealing with these threats will require different means and weapons depending on the situation. There are lethal and non-lethal variations but an additional consideration would be ammo. BT’s will require a special kind of ammo crafted from your blood, Hematic rounds if you will. Why? Part of the story. You’ll find out early on in the game but this is an additional consideration you’ll need to manage.

The world of Death Stranding may be treacherous and harsh, but there is indeed beauty in madness because everything looks breathtaking. Overall, the game is an artistic masterpiece that surely pushes the limits of the PS4. Often times you’ll stop to look around and just take in the landscape, everything looks so picturesque that you’ll enjoy admiring the view especially with a 4K capable screen. Each element of the world looks, sounds, and acts like you would imagine it to, upping the immersion factor even further. Performance is hardly an issue as frame drops were very few and far in between if any at all, even during moments when I was being swarmed by BT’s. For the most part, you’ll be enjoying a silky smooth experience which is rare nowadays, a testament to the level of excellence the developers strived to achieve for this game.

Instagrammable. #landscapephotography

One fantastic touch that I liked is while exploring, you’ll hear nothing but ambient sounds but soon after, a vocal track from the soundtrack will start playing. I never knew how much I wanted a music track to play during a game until Death Stranding. I’m not one to fire up my Spotify playlist over a game because normally I’d get lost in the beautiful world BGM or battle music in RPG’s but Death Stranding takes a cue from Breath of the Wild and elevates the experience with an equally superb soundtrack.

And speaking of soundtrack, the Death Stranding OST is officially FIRE. Mind blowingly good, the OST features tracks from artists like Khalid, Alan Walker, Au/Ra, Major Lazer, Missio, and Chvrches, who perform the titular track “Death Stranding”. The soundtrack ranges from compositions with haunting melodies to synth laden beats, it’s a perfect match to the game and really gives it the pop that it needs to break the monotony of exploring the world. You can give the song a listen below, but beware of its power to make you play it on repeat for the rest of the day. or week.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFGq92BYmt4

“Maybe together we can make our mark in the stars…”

And so we ask again, what makes the game so damn special?

“People have created “Walls” and become accustomed to living in isolation.

Death Stranding is a completely new type of action game, where the goal of the player is to reconnect isolated cities and a fragmented society. It is created so that all elements, including the story and gameplay, are bound together by the theme of the “Strand” or connection. As Sam Porter Bridges, you will attempt to bridge the divides in society, and in doing create new bonds or “Strands” with other players around the globe. Through your experience playing the game, I hope you’ll come to understand the true importance of forging connections with others.

Kojima explained it best. It’s easy to dismiss this game as a delivery simulator from all the trailers and videos that have been released, which is not completely wrong, but at its core is a world building title unlike any other. As you travel the world, you’ll be able to build a myriad of items – from a ladder to a generator, a bridge, or even a highway. Each of these things you build will help not only you, but also other players, complete their journey.

You know how in Dark Souls you can leave notes on the ground to warn fellow players of impending danger? Multiply that by a hundred, or a thousand. Trouble crossing a stream? Create a bridge. Long trek draining your batteries? Set up a generator halfway. These items you build can and will be seen by other players in your game instance and they may use it as well. In the same way, all the other players can likewise build other structures that in turn will eventually help you. Kojima and Sony never did give anyone a peek at this aspect of the game and for good reason as it is the defining feature of Death Stranding. Everyone does their part to reconnect the fragmented society and this feature alone is well worth the price of admission. Reviews can only convey so much about this “Strand” system but seeing it work first hand in the game is truly overwhelming.

I see YongYea, I click like.

Does it mean that if you let other players advance through the game before you do, you’ll have an easier time because of all the structures they’ll be building? Well yes and no. You see the world of Death Stranding is divided into chunks. Connecting a facility to the Chiral Network (Similar to synchronizing a viewpoint from Assassin’s Creed) will allow you to see all structures built around that area. If you are not connected to the network in that place, then you won’t be seeing anything. Things would be easier in a sense, yes, but you’ll have to synchronize with the area first.

Death Stranding’s game design is thoughtful and elaborate, with almost every possibility and question answered. You may think that eventually, the whole map would be flooded with all of these redundant structures and while that is a possibility, there are a lot of factors that contribute to the ever changing world.

I mentioned about Timefall, which is a degradation element in the game that not only affects your deliveries but will also affect every structure built. Players may choose to repair that structure if they find it useful enough or let it rot away. Alternatively, any player can dismantle any structure or sign they come across but they will only remove it in their personal game, not affecting the global economy, so to speak.

Players cannot just build a hundred bridges because they are limited by 2 currencies – Resources such as metal or resin and Bandwidth. Resources can be found scattered throughout the world, but they can’t be used in their current state unless you make them part of the cargo you deliver. Bandwidth, on the other hand, is limited and can only be had by connecting facilities to your network. Each structure you build will cost resources and bandwidth, so choose wisely and work with other players to build the necessary structures to help everyone out. You may have enough resources but if you’ve used up all of your bandwidth, then you can’t create any more structures unless you dismantle some of your older, less useful creations.

Resources aren’t just used to create structures but they can be used to upgrade them too. Upgrading structures would add some customization options like having a hologram greet a weary traveler as you approach it or even play a tune. Ultimately, upgrading structures boosts Timefall resistance, ensuring that it lasts longer over the course of the game. Of course upgrading is a monumental task to do alone and will take a toll on your resource stock which is why everybody in the world can choose to help out, as long as the structure is useful enough to warrant the upgrade.

There are various facilities in the world that will be responsible for assigning you missions but within them are Private Rooms where you can rest up, regain your stamina and restock your ammo, as well as do some other personal shenanigans like take a shower or even a dump. There’s some basic customization to be had here, like changing the color of your suit or of any of the accessories you acquire, but that’s about it. Obviously you can’t change Sam’s facial or body features, but I applaud you for thinking of it at least.

These facilities will also allow you to recycle items for additional resources, donate to a shared pool of items that other players can access, and likewise take what you think you need from that shared resource pool. You may choose to be THAT GUY who just takes whatever but the game encourages you to give back to the community, and it will reward you in doing so.

It’s really a creative stroke of genius. In this time of crowdsourcing and crowdfunding, the game brings the concept to life in such fashion that only Kojima could. This feature alone and how it was implemented in game turned my impression of the game around, complete 180. It felt especially good, seeing players from around the world use the structures that you’ve put up. You’ll be notified of it too! Imagine some streamer or content creator playing the game, giving you a shout out because of some zip line you built at the right location? I don’t quite know who these people are personally and where they come from but receiving a pat on the back for helping out is a great feeling.

It works, brilliantly. And the reward of it all? Likes.

Yup, you read right, likes. You can choose to give likes to structures that you’ve found useful during your journey and if you build something useful, the same will be done by other players in the world. Likes are a social currency with effects being much more concrete, allowing you to level up upon receiving enough likes. The feeling of contributing to the rebuilding of the world around you is next to none as the impact of these structures is almost immediately felt by everyone and the likes you’ll receive will only serve as validation of your good work.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7wi7LX9F40

“What will become of us all if we dare to dream?”

Death Stranding can be compared to watching a 40 hour long movie unfold. As is a Kojima trademark, expect a LOT of cutscenes. If I remember correctly, during my first 3-5 hours I think the time I spent controlling Sam was less than the time spent watching cutscenes. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, as each of these is masterfully crafted, directed, and important to the overarching narrative.

Motion capture quality is top notch, along with great writing and voice acting. One can only imagine the immense budget needed to pull this off but you can immediately see the quality and care put into producing each cutscene.

One more similarity to Metal Gear are the characters. Each of the characters in the game have wonderful stories to tell, with almost everyone being given appropriate screen time to develop. Norman Reedus totally kills his role as Sam Bridges, but let’s not discount the rest of the cast like Mads Mikkelsen, Tommie Earl Jenkins, Guillermo Del Toro, Lea Seydoux, Margaret Qualley, and others. Everyone has a performance to remember but I especially liked Mama (Qualley) and Fragile’s (Seydoux) storyline a bit more over the others. They had touching storylines that deeply affected me and if anything, I wish there was a way to have a playlist of all the cutscenes in the game. Pretty sure I’m not the only one wishing for that!

No, YOU’RE incredible.

Celebrity appearances are quite plentiful in Death Stranding as well. You may have already seen Conan making an appearance and a lot of people were asking if it was just a simple cameo, it’s not! Geoff Keighly is also in the game but keep your eye out for a lot more, you may be surprised as to who else makes an appearance.

Transitions between scenes are near seamless due to the graphical quality of the game as you can hardly differentiate the game from a cutscene and once you’re in a mission, there’s hardly any loading screen. Death Stranding employs techniques used in other games like Persona 5 where instead of a loading screen, you get to see some extra scenes or animations which hide loading times very well.

One thing about Death Stranding that I absolutely enjoyed was the pacing and progression of the game. It may start a bit slow for most (like me), but after a certain point, the pace really picks up in terms of gameplay and story. It’s so good, in fact, that even at my 40th hour of playing, I’m still finding out or accessing something new, whether it be a weapon or a plot twist. Not all games can put up pacing and progression like Death Stranding can, and it’s really a huge reason why you’ll want to keep playing on.

As with Kojima games, you probably cannot expect to understand everything on your first go so there’s a big possibility of you replaying the game to catch all the little details. At the moment, there is no new game plus but after the story ends, you are free to wander around the world at your own leisure, finishing up deliveries to max out some connections. That said, replay value of the game is a bit weak only because of its story driven nature but if you’re the type of person who wants to fully immerse yourself in the lore and understand every detail, a replay would be in order.

The world Kojima dares to create wraps itself up beautifully, with each element of the game complementing each other. The theme of creating “strands” is woven into EVERY aspect of the game in a thoughtful manner and not some shoddily put together mechanic, making sense of all the deliveries you’ve been doing. It also tackles mature and sensitive themes that require immense focus to understand thoroughly and this alone is proof that the Strand system extends even outside of the game, as evidenced by the discussions you’ll be having with your peers as to the meaning of it all.

Death Stranding is a game that won’t be embraced by everybody, I’ll have to admit that even I had a hard time getting past the first few chapters but the game only asks that you give it a chance, and that’s probably more than enough.

What we liked:

  • Game design and progression is spot on
  • Graphical and cinematic masterpiece
  • Hardly any glaring bugs with a very high level of polish
  • Superior soundtrack

What we didn’t like:

  • It will take a while for the game to “hook” you in
  • Core delivery gameplay may be boring for most
  • Action is scarce and is not too much of a challenge

Verdict: Buy it!

Death Stranding is a masterclass in game design and production value. It is a genre redefining effort. Some may find the core loop of delivering items boring or tedious, and with good reason, but you’ll really need to look beneath the surface to gain a deeper appreciation for the game. It’s a unique world building experience – I’ve crossed a bridge built by YouTube sensation YongYea, warned by walkthrough website PowerPyx before entering into hostile territory, and have even driven a bike left behind by our good Indonesian friend Jagat Play. Seeing the connections built with these players from around the world is indescribable and over the course of reviewing the title, I’ve even gained a couple of new friends just because of some random zip line I set up, thanking me for making their lives easier through a rough part of the game.

Death Stranding is a very strong game of the year candidate for a lot of reasons. I could go on and on about them but truth be told, I think it’s simply because of the fact that after so many games and mechanics and storylines over the years, a title like this can still break boundaries and introduce a transcendent experience that’s hard to follow. Death Stranding did not play it safe and it was all the better because of it. It took risks, it took a leap, and it definitely stuck the landing.

I nearly didn’t give Death Stranding a chance. 41 hours later, I can’t wait to play it all over again. The game nearly lost me in the first few hours but to draw me back in AND blow me away at the same time? That was more than enough reason for me to give this game the rating it deserved.

*Death Stranding was reviewed on a PS4 Pro through a review code provided by the publishers.

Our Review Format

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.
“Trash 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.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: October 1, 2019
  • Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC
  • Modes: Always online Single / Multiplayer
  • Similar Games: Warframe, Borderlands, The Division
  • Price: Starts at around PHP1,800 for the base expansion

I have a confession to make. I deleted Destiny 2 from my PS4 a long time ago, with zero intention of installing it again. I had quit right about the time Forsaken was going to launch, which turned out to be a big mistake because Forsaken was the turning point Destiny needed to steep the ship back on track, similar to The Taken King expansion from the first game. No regrets, I told myself, as I allowed my gaming time to be shared with other titles over the course of the year. My clan had quit too, which was the sign I needed to move on.

Fast forward to October 2019 and Destiny 2 rears its ugly head again with Shadowkeep. I was intrigued because not only did it promise a ton of improvements and the addition of RPG heavy elements, it also featured a Vex raid and a spooky storyline as we return to the moon accompanied by none other than Eris Morn. Is this the expansion that finally makes me unearth my Guardian and take on the grind once again? Here’s my review of Destiny 2: Shadowkeep.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFYJTudJ540

Feels brand new and familiar at the same time

To start, there are quite a number of things we’ll need to mention, with the first being a change in business model for Destiny. It finally took on the free to play path it was meant to be on, supplemented by season passes similar to games like Fortnite and Apex Legends. I had invested a lot of time and money into Destiny and with it going free, sure I’m a teeny tiny bit disappointed but part of me is happy to see that a lot of people will finally get to try a franchise that took close to 800 hours of my life.

Bungie had also promised a new release schedule which would take on the form of constant updates as the season progressed. Similar to Fortnite as well was the evolution of the world, another promise that would hopefully hold great things for the Destiny lore. Shadowkeep seemed to be the start of something new and exciting for Destiny, and I was all eyes and ears.

Cross save was another answered prayer from fans of the title. With Activision out of the picture, Steam took over the reigns and with it, the ability for Guardians to choose to play wherever they wished as long as you link your respective accounts. The payoff was immediate, with millions of old and new guardians logging in across platforms to finally experience this masterpiece, one with its fair share of ups and downs over the years.

And so I log my Titan back in, for the first time in a very long time. It took me about 30 minutes to finally get my bearings straight.

I was overwhelmed. Having not played since Forsaken, the game slapped me with a ton of improvements that had culminated in Shadowkeep.

First, there’s what they call Armor 2.0, which is basically the new equipment system in the game. It’s fantastic, allowing players to actually create builds that will cater to your playstyle. Armors now have stat points that can cap at 100, giving you bonuses such as faster grenade cooldown or more health as you reach certain thresholds. Each armor piece still has slots which will house your mods but the big change here is that mods are not consumable anymore and each mod now has an “energy cost”. Each armor has an energy meter that you can upgrade with currency and the higher your energy meter is, the better mods you can choose to equip. Some mods will take up more energy than others, so choose wisely. Did I also mention that armor pieces now have energy types that will restrict the type of mods you can place on it?

They call it armor 2.0 because you’ll need to farm twice as much to get the armor rolls you want and you’ll be spending twice as much time to build one to your liking. It’s also twice as satisfying, min-maxing at its finest, and I personally love it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8mC5GaDoyQ

To the moon and back

As with new updates, a new campaign also accompanies Shadowkeep. The long and short of the story is that we head back to the Moon because of strange Hive behavior. Eris Morn returns and is investigating the source of the anomalies and you’re there to help her find out what’s causing the disturbance. It’s not overly complicated but the most I can say is that it is definitely a cliffhanger, especially because the whole campaign will run you around a measly 4 hours.

Remember when I mentioned that similar to Fortnite, the world would be evolving? The Shadowkeep campaign ends with a huge question mark simply because it is just a first in a long series of events that will be happening as Destiny progresses. Some of you may not like it, especially if you’re not the type to splash hundreds of hours into the game. If you are deeply invested in Destiny? Then this setup is fantastic because it’ll leave you eager to see what happens next. Think of it as a full story developing over the span of a year or two. Playing the same game for a year may seem like a weird prospect, but Destiny is one game that can certainly do just that.

Returning to the moon is refreshingly welcome, even though we’ve been there before. The overall look has slightly changed, with a sort of eerie feel to it now as brought about by the storyline. I love it when Destiny goes all spooky, similar to the previous expansions like The Dark Below and The Taken King, and Shadowkeep is no different. While it is new, it also feels very nostalgic at the same time.

New player or grizzled veteran, there is a ton of stuff to do in Destiny. The usual strikes are still present but with some new entries, as are public events, but new to Shadowkeep are Nightmare Hunts which are basically strikes with difficulty levels that feature palette swapped bosses from previous expansions. Personally, it’s a great (albeit lazy) way to add content into the game and the difficulty levels surprisingly adds a new dimension to the experience. I can’t say for certain if Bungie will be adding totally new enemies here, but we can safely assume that they would in future seasons.

There’s also the Vex Offensive, a fireteam based event which acts like a lite version of a raid that will have you run through objectives and waves of enemies culminating in a huge boss fight for great rewards. It’s not as mechanically demanding as a full on raid, so this is something more casual Guardians can take on to give them a feel of how an actual raid works.

Speaking of raid, Shadowkeep features a new one called the Garden of Salvation. I have yet to actually complete the raid due to scheduling conflicts but it feels great to be finally running one again after such a long time. My last raid encounter was with Calus and I can’t even count the number of times we’ve beaten the poor thing, so this felt really nostalgic to me. The constant communication, taking turns with skills, the DPS race – it felt fantastic, a rush of adrenalin, something only few games can give you with Destiny being one of them. Raids are the ultimate challenge that the game will provide you so it is something every player will want to aim for, whether it be with a full fireteam or a group of randoms.

It would be quite unfair to rate the raid without me having finished it yet, but with what I’ve experienced so far, it’s certainly fun and communications intensive but nothing too special. It’s not quite up there with the likes of Vault of Glass or King’s Fall, but there’s quite a number of good loot to be had here so it’s an activity that’s still definitely worth the time.

One thing everyone has to understand about Destiny is that it took a while to get to this point, with tons of improvements over time that started with Forsaken and culminated in Shadowkeep. Seeing as I skipped a big chunk of content, getting back into the Destiny groove was quite a painful experience. Unfortunately, there’s very little onboarding and you’re quickly left to fend for yourself, figuring out what to do next in the sea of missions and bounties. One good thing though is that on top of all the already existing activities, it’s hard to run out of things to do in between weekly resets so the best way to go about everything is to just take things easy.

Easier said than done, because one thing that Destiny does well is to constantly give you a sense of FOMO, or fear of missing out. It’ll always let you know you’re missing out on something. You’re always reminded of that missing Exotic weapon, that badge you’ve almost earned, that last armor piece from your collection… It’s easy to shrug it off though, but for more dedicated Guardians, it’s more than enough motivation to keep on playing after you’ve finished all of your weekly tasks.

If there’s ever any bad thing about any free to play game, it’s the prospect of premium items being slapped in your face and it’s no different here. The premium shop, called Eververse, is completely optional but also always there to remind you of its existence, having its own menu section. One good thing is that the game makes it slightly easier for you to earn Bright Dust, which is one of the currencies used to purchase Eververse items, so there’s less of a temptation to whip out your credit card.

What we liked:

  • Armor 2.0 is great for min-maxers
  • Massive but more purposeful and streamlined grindfest
  • Some of the best shooting mechanics out there

What we didn’t like:

  • Shadowkeep in itself feels lacking due to the world progression that’s yet to come
  • Campaign is disappointingly short, similar to previous outings

Verdict: Buy it!

Destiny 2: Shadowkeep shows great promise for the future of the game. While on it’s own it leaves much to be desired, what it really does is set up a great foundation for the future seasons. Armor 2.0 is a massive improvement that allows for gameplay centered builds and with small additions like finishers, there’s just so much to do and collect that will leave even the most dedicated Guardian busy for quite some time.

As it stands, the potential is there but it’s really hard to say what future seasons will hold and how interesting the evolution of the world will be. Will it be compelling enough to keep you going? Based on Bungie’s track record and how well they’ve turned around both Destiny titles, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt for this one because all of their improvements since Forsaken have steered this ship in the right direction. 35$ (or roughly around PHP1800) is a pretty fair price to pay for the amount of content that you’ll end up getting so splurging on this expansion shouldn’t be a hard decision.

*Destiny 2: Shadowkeep was reviewed on a PS4 Pro through a review code provided by the publisher.

If you’re the type to read on reviews first before purchasing a game, well then the review Embargo for Death Stranding has been revealed and it’s a full week before the actual launch of the game.

The worldwide review embargo lifts on November 1, 4:01 PM Philippine Time and as with reviews, all game publications around the world will be publishing their reviews at this time. We’ll be reviewing the game as well so check back for our review of one of the most highly anticipated games of 2019!

In the mean time, check out how much space Death Stranding will take up when it releases.

Death Stranding file size revealed, will take up at least 55GB

Our Review Format

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.
“Trash 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.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: October 9, 2019
  • Platforms: Playstation 4
  • Modes: Single with PSVR compatibility
  • Similar Games: Jet Set Radio
  • Price: PHP 1,649

PlayStation is looking to end 2019 with a bang. With a series of hugely successful releases and possibly an even bigger one come November, some may not even know of this little gem called Concrete Genie. Can’t blame ’em. Since it was first revealed back in 2017, there hasn’t been too much news about the game until a couple of months ago when a release date was finally set, perfect by all accounts, in time for “Inktober”. By the time you read this, Concrete Genie will soon hit retailers at nearly half the price of a regular title and to help you make the unenviable decision of possibly spending money on the game, here’s our review of this PS4 exclusive!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SoIf3HNI-DQ

Genies are almost always associated with magic. Whether it be a blue dude granting wishes or that KPop song from nearly a decade ago, Genies are usually considered to be something extraordinary. Enter Pixelopus. Known for their moderately rated game called Entwined from 2014, Pixelopus has been hard at work for the past few years to get this title out. We first got to try it out during E3 2018 and while the concept of it all was great, the execution left something to be desired. There was enough time to tidy it up into something ready to hit households by 2019 and the end result? Magical.

Paint my love

Concrete Genie starts out in the quaint little town of Denska, where the populace has been forced out due to a disastrous event, turning the once bustling community into a ghost town. The only source of creativity and hope in the town is from our protagonist that goes by the name of Ash, who is being bullied by a bunch of local kids. Ash keeps a sketchbook in hand, documenting thoughts and feelings and turning them into sketches that will soon spring to life, unbeknownst to him.

One time, the bullying goes too far and the sketchbook is ripped apart, spreading the pages across the town. Ash, determined to get them back, sets off on a journey across the town to an abandoned lighthouse where he will soon find his purpose, to harness his creativity as the tool that will bring life back to Denska.

It’s quite a premise, something straight out of a Disney or Pixar script. The artistic direction for the game is very distinct, with the character models looking like papercraft or claymation models brought to life. For a game that pushes the limits of creativity and imagination, it has to be said that the game looks stunning, especially when viewed on a 4K screen paired with a PS4 Pro. Viewing the town as is doesn’t do it justice but after literally painting the town red as the saying goes, it’s quite the sight to behold – a beautiful contrast between Ash, the dreary town, and your own personal neon light show.

I keep on mentioning something about “painting the town to life”. I’ll explain more about it in a bit but just to give you a sample of what you can actually achieve in game, check out these screens below:

Image courtesy of SIE
Image courtesy of SIE
Image courtesy of SIE
Image courtesy of SIE
Image courtesy of SIE
Image courtesy of SIE

With all the colors of the wind

Without diving too much into the details of the story to avoid spoilers, your main task as Ash is to paint sketches and murals across Denska. Armed with a magical paintbrush, you’ll need to find the various pages of your sketchbook to gain access to more designs. When you first start, you can only paint up a campfire, the sun and stars, and even a couple of trees and plants. Collect more pages and you’ll be able to create full fledged landscapes including rainbows, luminous plants, and even a winter wonderland. Want to paint the sun and moon side by side with the Northern lights surrounded by icicles and mushrooms? Hey, your call. As long as you can think it, you can paint it.

Painting is not as hard as it sounds. The controls are very intuitive and will require only a couple of minutes of practice before you get things down pat. You’ll control the cursor using the motion controls of your Dualshock, moving it around to paint in the direction you choose. It’s interesting that you can change the control to the right analog stick later in the game but the motion controls are more immersive, making it the control scheme of choice. The great thing about it? You don’t have to know jack about drawing or art to create wonderful pieces. Just let your imagination run wild and let the paintbrush surprise you!

Painting simply requires you to open your sketchbook, choose a design, and let the game do the work for you. You can paint a small patch of grass by dragging your controller a few paces to the left or right, or even a tall tree by taking the cursor to the top of the screen. Each design you draw then springs to life with such vibrant colors, creating an artwork you can call your own. There’s very little chance that you’ll get an end result that is an exact copy of another because the slightest variation in stroke and angle may change the final product. It’s a great touch that emphasizes personal creativity.

Each of Denska’s main areas are divided into zones which you’ll need to clear in order to move on to the next. As you explore the alleyways and sidestreets, you’ll come across “light strands” strewn across walls which you’ll have to paint over to get them to light up. For example, Zone 1 of the first area has 4 strands that you’ll have to paint over to gain access to zone 2 and opening up all zones will eventually lead you to create a “masterpiece” for that area, thus allowing you to progress. Some walls and surfaces will be covered in “darkness”, which requires super paint to remove as explained later on. It’s a simple core loop that isn’t too challenging. To be honest, the game is NOT challenging at all save for the last section which is radically different from what the game serves you for the most part.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSLAyWsFyYk&t=3s

Eye for detail

Apart from painting, you’ll be running around Denska to explore every nook and cranny for collectibles. Finding all of the pages of your sketchbook won’t take too long, in fact the whole game length will clock in at around 4-6 hours depending on how you go about it, while completionists aiming for the easy platinum will take you around 8 hours give or take to find everything. It’s an easy platinum by the way, so check out our trophy list to see what you may be missing (trophy descriptions contain spoilers).

You’ll also be painting to life these creatures called Genies, which will help you solve the many simple puzzles around the game. Genies, like your artwork, will also vary in design depending on the number of pages you pick up. Collecting more pages will allow you a multitude of choices for the various body parts, again ensuring that the genie that you create will be uniquely your own.

Speaking of making them your own, you’ll also be able to interact with them, creating a special connection between your genie and the murals you’ve painted. Create a campfire with an apple tree under the moon? Sit down and relax with your Genie while he takes a bite out of the apple. Want to give your Genie a scare? Bring some thunder and lightning in the mix. There are various interactions you can create with your Genie and the rest will be up to you to discover.

They’ll sometimes request a painting from you which you can oblige in exchange for some super paint. Super paint is a more powerful form of paint, allowing you to clear certain surfaces covered in darkness, something normal paint can’t do. Once cleared, you’ll be able to progress deeper into the story. Interacting with the Genies for a super paint refill is a nice way to break the monotony of simply finishing up the storyline.

The rest of the collectibles focus more on telling the story of Deska in an interactive manner. First are “billboards”, which contain guides on what to paint, so recreating them will be easy as long as you have the required design to complete the painting. Similarly, there are “moments”, which are sketches on the walls that will require Genies for you to decipher. Once you call a Genie to the area, they’ll provide a guide on what to paint, and like billboards, you’ll only be able to complete these with the required designs. Last of these collectibles are newspapers, which is another storytelling device that you simply pick up as you wander across the streets.

As you would expect from a beautiful game such as this, a photo mode is also available. With the usual bells and whistles like filters and other sliders, one thing fascinating about the photo mode is to take a short recording of your mural as you paint it, design by design. The short clip is basically a “live photo”, documenting your creation from start to finish, seeing your masterpiece unfold one flower and one tree after the other. It’s a great touch, and a perfect addition for what the feature wants to achieve for the game.

For PSVR users, there’s a short campaign that you can run through which will allow you to paint the world around you like you were Ash himself. The experience is not for everybody, as you may experience some feeling of dizziness due to all the vibrant colors and constant looking around but if you can handle that, you’ll be treated to some of the best VR experience that a game has to offer. While the campaign is short lived, you may access a VR free painting mode, which allows you to paint over various locales without any pressure. It’s basically a blank canvas and your stage to let your imagination run free.

Concrete Genie is very easy to dismiss as a kiddie game but surprisingly, it discusses some mature themes like self discovery, friendship, and bullying. It’s quite courageous for Pixelopus to even touch this, especially for something so sensitive, but Concrete Genie handles it perfectly without going overboard. Ash is a great representation of a kid resorting to other means of coping with bullying, in this case his art. Through his art, he is able to express himself in ways he could not do because of pressure from ourside sources, resulting in him creating a world for himself where he is free to believe and create something as simple as friends, in this case the Genies. It’s a touching story, one that some of the kids and even adults playing the game may be able to relate to in one form or the other. In the end, each experience is different, and Concrete Genie is the game that reminds us that as being different is not something to be afraid of, but rather something to be proud of because that is what makes each one of us a work of art.

What we liked:

  • Painting controls are very intuitive and easy to master
  • Creative storytelling and fantastic interactions
  • PSVR mode is executed very well

What we didn’t like:

  • Game length is a bit too short, with little incentive to go back and play for much longer
  • Puzzles may be a bit too simple

Verdict: Buy it!

It’s really hard not to recommend this game. The price point is too tempting for such a great but rather short experience. Concrete Genie is a charming game that anyone can enjoy, be it by a kid or a kid at heart. Great titles do not require ultra realistic graphics nor complicated game mechanics and Concrete Genie simply proves that a little bit of imagination and creativity can go a very long way. This game is certainly not for everybody, especially if you’re looking for more action oriented games. Concrete Genie is quite an experience that deals with some social issues in a unique manner, something I personally liked and you could as well if you give it a chance.

Want to know how good the game is? Shuhei Yoshida himself has his calling card designed with a Concrete Genie backdrop.

*The game was reviewed on a PS4 Pro through a review code provided by the publisher.

Our Review Format

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.
“Trash 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.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: September 27, 2019
  • Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC
  • Modes: Single
  • Similar Games: Bloodborne, Dark Souls
  • Price: Starts at PHP 2,495 for consoles

Code Vein was supposed to release a year ago, September 28. One could only assume that the delay was most probably due to getting in some last minute polish into the game. With its creative direction already established as what was looking to be a game with heavy anime and God Eater influence, gameplay was most certainly an important aspect that had to be perfected, being a “souls-like” clone. What made these Soulsborne games successful from the get go was the fact that even though it was aimed at a niche masocore audience, the battle system and the satisfaction you got after the fact was extremely well made. Bloodborne, Nioh, and Sekiro have successfully recreated that, but did the year of delay help Code Vein achieve that which evades most clones?

To simply get it out of the way, Code Vein is an anime style Souls inspired game. There is no other way around it and the gameplay and user interface will almost immediately remind you of Dark Souls or Bloodborne, and may or may not cause some hair pulling because of the difficulty. We clear on that? Good. For the sake of this review, I want to focus on Code Vein’s merits more rather than dumbing it down to a clone because there was certainly some effort put into that attempt. Here is our review of Code Vein!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2YFU_VQ6vU

Uwu?

The world of Code Vein is one of mystery, intrigue, and drama. That’s right folks, the game actually has some fleshed out narrative behind it. Humanity has been threatened by some unknown, monstrous force and to combat this, they made monsters of their own – Revenants. These immortal soldiers are basically vampires with their hearts intact, surviving on blood as do all Vampires do. While they have done their part to somehow stop the impending disaster, Revenants end up being a disaster themselves as giving in to their bloodthirst turns them into one of the “Lost”, now acting on primal instincts.

Your character starts the game in an isolated ruined city called the Vein where you will begin a long journey of discovery. One of the thing the game does is it successfully makes it your story by allowing for character customization. Without exaggeration, Code Vein has one of the most detailed character creation systems I’ve ever seen. Skin color variations have further variations, you can have different pupil colors per eye, and you can even change the patterns on some of your dress items. There is an insane amount of accessories like glasses and jewelry but instead of making your character a walking closet, there’s a limit to the number of accessories you can bring along. On our playthrough, we spent at least an hour into this, making us the perfect anime Waifu to bring along in our journey.

Throughout the game, you’ll meet a mixed bunch of characters, including fellow Revenants on your journey to discover the mysteries of Vein like the cool-headed Louis and ever protective Mia, each with their own sad story to tell. One of the little letdowns in Code Vein is that it’s pretty much a checklist of anime personality tropes. It’s not bad for newcomers to the genre but anime regulars may find an archetype they already seen somewhere else. The story is also something that’s straight out of anime but what makes it unique is that it holds a very depressing and serious tone. You can appreciate the story as you progress through the game and slowly learn about the world and its inhabitants, but it isn’t something to write home about.

I know I said I wouldn’t compare it to Soulsborne games but there are some similarities that we’ll unavoidably have to point out. Code Vein will have you explore the world and progressing the story, all while fighting off Lost and other hostile Revenants. The game is your standard Action RPG where battles are real time and locking onto enemies is possible. Your actions are governed by a stamina meter that is used when you attack and dodge so stamina management is a must to survive. You’ll also have a Home Base where you can move to different locations as long as you were able to activate Mistles, which serve as your checkpoint and respawning locations. As such, any enemy you’ve eliminated along the way will revive once you activate a Mistle.

Haze is the currency of the game and you get this simply by defeating enemies. As simple as this sounds, you’ll be needing a LOT of Haze for a LOT of things – Levelling up, buying equipment, items, and weapons, the list goes on. Haze is important in the game and the abundance of Mistles will mean you’ll want to save often, because dying will cause you to drop all your hard earned Haze in that area, all while respawning at your previous checkpoint to get them back. Die again before recovering the Haze? Say goodbye to it forever. Fortunately, your Home Base has a Hot Spring (don’t ask why, they just have it) where not only can you recap the story as you progress, but are also given the option to retrieve half of your lost Haze without having to run back to get them. Fair trade? I’d say so, especially since you’ll get to see your character along with your friends relax with just a towel on. Definitely a fair trade.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpVxRI0DkDU&has_verified=1

A gift of blood…

Haze isn’t the only thing you’ll need to survive in the vein, as your character will also gain access to what’s called “Blood Codes” and “Gifts”, which are your Classes and abilities or skills respectively. Here’s where Code Vein gets interesting. By equipping different Blood Codes, your stats change according to what you equipped. The Fighter blood code will allow for higher HP and stronger melee attacks while the Caster blood code will, you guessed it right, give you higher Ichor (or MP) and stronger magic attacks. You’ll acquire blood codes simply by progressing through the game and you’ll be able to get these from your companions as well. Louis will give you the Prometheus code, which specializes in fast attacks and parrying while Yakumo will give you Atlas, featuring high stamina and the use of heavy armor. Blood Codes will dictate your style of play and you’ll find that switching codes throughout the game is important to progress through some of the tougher bosses.

Each Blood Code has Gifts, which are basically skills. One important aspect of Gifts is the ability to max out its proficiency, which then allows you to equip that Gift on a different Blood Code. If you want a certain passive ability from a different Code, just max it out and use it on your preferred Code! It’s not a totally new system but what this means is you get to try and use different builds throughout the game until you find one that suits your style.

Blood Codes can also be given to you by your friends or by collecting Vestiges, which are basically hearts of dead Revenants that also houses their memories. Meaning not only do you get a new character class to try out, but you also get a little bit of backstory to that Revenant’s past and some Vestiges will give you some insight on the world of Code Vein, with some being a bit more heartbreaking than others. Some players may not like this style of storytelling, where everything is scattered and fragmented, but it works for this game at the very least.

… and Steel.

Weapons and Blood Veils serve as your primary equipment in the game. Blood Veil is basically your armor set but sounds so much more badass! Some Blood Veils have certain properties like increased resistance to status effects or one that enhances your Gifts, so the best looking one may not necessarily be the best one to equip for your character build. Weapons, on the other hand, are divided into categories such as Swords, Axes, Hammers, Bayonets, and even the This-is-too-big-how-can-you-even-carry-it Sword. As mentioned earlier, your character build will mostly dictate your style of play, so it’s best to choose a weapon that suits that style.

Weapons will only get you so far because difficulty has always been a touchy subject when it comes to souls-like games. Some find it a bit too hard, some relish the challenge. Code Vein eases you in the genre by giving you a less stressful experience because of your AI companion. One great feature is that you are able to bring one of your Revenant friends to the battlefield and it’s great to know they’re pretty competent in a fight! The AI isn’t perfect though and will sometimes be too aggressive but it definitely makes the game a lot easier compared to other titles in the genre. Whether this dilutes your experience of the game is up to you, but the feature actually makes Code Vein a great entry point for players who are grossly intimidated by the steep difficulty curve of Sekiro and Bloodborne.

Speaking of difficulty, what irks me about the game is that instead of working on balancing the enemies, Code Vein’s idea of difficult is simply throwing 5 enemies at you all at the same time. The only way this happens in other Souls games was if you just ran carelessly and lured every single one. In Code Vein, it’s a natural occurrence, and I find it rather cheap that your survival will depend on luck as well and not on skill per se. It also doesn’t help that level design is a bit basic and cramped, which adds the camera angles as another one of your opponents. As mentioned, the game is easier, but still challenging if you don’t approach it with caution.

Bosses in Code Vein are a bit… I guess weird, is what I’ll call it. Some are easy but others will be frustratingly difficult not because of what they do but because of you not being able to make a build suited for that boss. While you should ideally be able to kill any boss with any build, some will be more effective than others and that’s a fact. What I don’t like is that the jump in difficulty between builds is a huge spike upwards, telling me that I’ve spent the past few hours grinding the wrong build. Fortunately, Haze is quite abundant in the game and will make the grind a bit bearable.

What we liked:

  • As an anime fan, I loved the anime aesthetic
  • Various character builds to try out

What we didn’t like:

  • Battles don’t feel as satisfying as they should be
  • Game difficulty feels cheap
  • Level design is uninspired

Verdict: Wait for it…

This was a tough cookie to rate. I appreciated how much it tried to differentiate itself from being more than a Souls clone, with the character and wardrobe design falling under my kind of “style”. Overall, I didn’t mind it borrowing a lot from it’s older siblings, but a pretty standard anime plot and cast of basic anime archetypes made the journey a little bland. The problem also is that it borrows too much, which really doesn’t differentiate it to the point of having it’s own identity. If you’re looking for a challenging and stylish action RPG, I’d say wait a bit for a sale or maybe a second hand purchase as there really isn’t too much of a new thing here that merits a full purchase. This is not to say Code Vein isn’t good, it actually is a recommended entry point into the genre, but as it stands it’s hard to recommend it at full price.

*The game was reviewed on a PS4 Pro through a review code provided by the publisher