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Another year, another Call of Duty game. Somehow, the game manages to work its way into relevance just like the yearly release that is NBA 2K. Both games draw a lot of similarities – each year showing a “new” campaign, iterative multiplayer gameplay. The usual stuff.

The franchise has almost always been consistently good, with this year’s installment Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War being no different. Featuring the usual suspects as players would expect, Call of Duty games shine with its multiplayer offerings, but this year it is the other way around, as it treats players to a fantastic campaign that leaves you wanting more. The payoff? Multiplayer that doesn’t quite push the needle.

Great Campaign

First of all, what the hell is up with that name? Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. That’s a freaking mouthful. Let’s just refer to it as Cold War or CW for this review.

The previous Black Ops game (BO4) didn’t see a single-player campaign and instead solely focused on the multiplayer experience, which was great, but also lacked that familiarity that players got accustomed to seeing from a Call of Duty game.

Cold War brings back the single-player campaign, and the game is all the better for it, with one of the best (and shortest) stories in recent memory, clocking in around 5-6 hours at most. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 holds the distinction of arguably having the best campaign story, but Cold War can definitely stand on its own.

call of duty: black ops cold war campaign

The premise revolves around the hunt for “Perseus”, a Russian spy that has infiltrated the ranks of the US agents and it is up to you to find out who Perseus is and stop him from doing (more) damage. Within the first 10 minutes, the game will have you jumping from rooftop to rooftop culminating in a slow-motion sequence and even blowing up a plane using a remote controlled explosive device. It’s outrageous and very movie-like, and the set pieces are really quite something to behold, which is par for the course of a Call of Duty title. The action is fast and intense, but the various levels will have you switching gears often that it doesn’t feel like you’re just mowing down hordes of enemies until you get to the next checkpoint.

I’m playing this on a PS4 pro and if anything, the guys behind the Call of Duty games know how to put out a good looking game, and Cold War isn’t an exception. I guess that’s really the thing with these current and next-gen “transition” games, as they look outstanding even with the current hardware, enough to make you want to experience the whole thing again with the new hardware.

Missions in Cold War will take you to a range of locales, which will walk you through the various ways you can wreak havoc in the game. You’ll man a helicopter turret or rain silent death with a sniper rifle, but none of these will compare to a personal favorite where you infiltrate the Lubyanka Building, the KGB headquarters. Most of the mission will have you figuring out how to get the objective done through non-lethal means (aka not killing everybody with your firearm), which will lead you to framing a KGB officer or poisoning his drink, if that’s your thing. It is in essence a stealth mission, but there will be multiple ways to go about it, and even though the ending is still the same, the process of it all was a nice experience. The mission ends with a frenetic battle as you try to escape the KGB headquarters, turning a full 180, blowing everything away compared to a rather peaceful start. Other missions can’t quite reach the highs that this mission does, which can draw comparisons to something that’s straight out of a Mission Impossible movie, but overall the Cold War campaign is a huge win for the game.

call of duty: black ops cold war lubyanka

To be or not to be

A new element that the campaign introduces is choice – you get to “create” and name your character, choose your traits which will give you certain advantages in battle like faster reload or faster movement… you can even choose your gender, even be non-binary if you choose to be. The gender choice will really be just how you are referred to in the game, which is not much, but its a start.

You’re also offered dialog choices scattered throughout the campaign, and while the branching paths don’t really offer a fully different scenario, it was a nice touch that the game gives you that illusion, which was particularly refreshing.

call of duty: black ops cold war dialog choice

In between missions, you’ll reconvene in your safe house, where you’ll be able to choose your next mission, review evidence collected, and take on side missions. Evidence is a pretty cool feature in Cold War. In previous Call of Duty games, you’ll go around a map collecting “intel” or whatever it is the game will have you collect for a trophy. Cold War makes the search worth while, as you’ll stumble upon pieces of evidence scattered around missions that will give you a clue on how to solve the next mission. One side mission will have you pick out 3 suspects from a group of individuals, and if you haven’t completed all the pieces of evidence from the other missions, it’ll be pretty impossible to single out the suspects. This system adds a bit of replayability to missions, only to find the piece you may have missed out on, but not enough to make you want to play through the whole campaign again.

call of duty: black ops cold war evidence

Same old multiplayer

Cold War is supposed to be the Call of Duty title that ushers in the franchise into the next-generation, and while it does that on the graphical and performance front, the multiplayer modes remain mostly the same, which was a slight disappointment due to how fresh the single-player campaign felt. Multiplayer still plays and feels great, but that’s also a good and bad thing depending on how you look at it.

The good first. By saying that the multiplayer in Cold War is mostly the same only means that you get the classic traits of a well built shooter – snappy and accurate gunplay, crisp audio and visual feedback, steady performance… You name a good thing about shooters and Call of Duty most likely has it, which is a product of year after year of solid installments. Gameplay and mechanics-wise, it’s Call of Duty through and through.

The usual modes are here as well. You’ll have team deathmatch, free for all, domination, combined arms… To be quite honest, I’m fine with just TDM and Domination, but I’m also not the most hardcore FPS player out there, so choice in terms of multiple available modes is always a good thing.

The bad thing about Cold War multiplayer lies in the limited number of maps available. Apart from the various modes, the strength of a multiplayer game relies heavily on the map rotation and you’ll be getting a frustratingly low number in Cold War. Although as with any Call of Duty game, which will improve over time, what’s here now is a little bit too limiting for what players have come to expect. You’ll also only get 1 zombies map, which is a stark contrast to the 3 maps immediately available for Black Ops 4.

Speaking of Zombies, the current Zombie map named “Die Maschine” leans more on the outrageous rather than the scary and creepy settings from the previous Black Ops title, with portals to the otherworld and such mechanics. I personally loved the previous eerie settings over this one, and it may really boil down to a matter of preference.

It plays mostly the same as previous iterations, but the feel isn’t quite there yet due to the setting and story of the scenario, which didn’t evoke the same emotions as before. Black Ops 4 had 3 great zombie maps, with each being scarier than the next.

Next-gen

We’ve heard so much about how the next-gen hardware will boost the Cold War experience and it sounds quite enticing. We have not yet played this on a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X, but suffice to say that improved visuals along with the capability to play at 120 frames sounds utterly delicious.

What we are hoping to see will be how well the experience is translated to the DualSense controller. It has been reported that each firearm will have individual adaptive trigger settings, which sound fantastic, but I’m imagining that it is something I’d turn off during multiplayer, as the added resistance could mean life or death during a skirmish.

We’ll be looking into a fuller next-gen experience soon, so expect an update when that’s available!

What we liked:

  • Great single player campaign with fresh new features
  • Gameplay quality is what you’ve come to expect from a Call of Duty title
  • Visual quality is incredible

What we didn’t like:

  • Limited maps and content available as of writing
  • Branching campaign storyline could be improved

Verdict: Wait for it.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is a good game, and it can only get better, but at the moment it doesn’t feel like a must-buy just yet. This is by no means the fault of the developers, but more of an effect that the pandemic has brought about, disrupting schedules here and there across every industry.

You’ll get a great but short single-player campaign, bare-bones multiplayer and zombies, as well as the trademark Call of Duty gameplay that everyone has come to know and love. That’s not a bad deal at all, but seeing as most players will tend to spend majority of the time in multiplayer, the single-player campaign cannot fully save the day for this installment.

You can wait for it in the mean time, but rest assured that more content will be on the way, and by the time that happens, Cold War will be a staple in every FPS fan’s library.

*Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War was reviewed on a PS4 Pro via a review code provided by the publishers.

The OMG Review
Our review format is not your usual fare and we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings!

“Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above.

“Wait for it…” means that the game probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point, we suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10.

“Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future, unless you want to intentionally hurt yourself. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: November 11, 2020
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch
  • Genre: Rhythm Action Game
  • Similar Games: Final Fantasy Theatrhythm
  • Price: Starts at PHP2,595

Kingdom Hears may or may not have one of the most convoluted storylines of a franchise ever, depending on who you ask. However complicated that is, there’s no denying that the game has produced fantastic music throughout the years. That being the case, the logical next step was quite clear – to gather the best bits of the musical score and produce… drum roll please… a rhythm game.

Yep. The latest Kingdom Hearts game to hit your screens isn’t an action-RPG, nor is it a mobile game, or even a *gasp* gacha game. Taking a cue from Final Fantasy Theatrhythm from way back 2012, Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory is the latest from Square Enix that takes us back to the world of Sora, Kairi, and the rest of the gang, allowing us to recall and relive our memories of the series while enjoying all of its iconic tunes.

A demo of the game was released early last month and while we thought that it definitely had something that fans of rhythm games and of the series should check out, it also seemed to be a very niche experience that might not appeal to a wider audience.

It has ‘Simple and Clean’

One has to note that Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory is actually canon to the KH storyline, and this entry in the series happens after the events of Kingdom Hearts III. If you’re a Kingdom Hearts veteran, you should know by now that with this entry being canon, there is something important in this game that you will not want to miss, unless you want to mess up your understanding of the story thus far. A canon rhythm game, who would have thought?

The premise is simple (and clean) – Kairi is on the search for Sora and by searching through his memories, might be able to find a clue on his whereabouts.

Apart from the game bearing the title of this well known IP, one thing that Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory headlines is its collection of over 140 songs. Pair it with some of the most well known Disney tracks like “Let it Go” and “Part of Your World” and you’ve got quite the list. There are also various appearances from beloved Disney characters here, some of which will serve as your party member in during select sequences.

The game has a LOT of tracks for you to get lost in, spread out across “worlds”. Progression in the game is simple – you play a track, meet certain objectives, gain stars per objective met, and move on to the next track. It all feels very natural, with the difficulty progressing at a steady pace, giving you access to the huge library of tunes as you unlock each by playing through them. I almost never played through a track for more than once, which speaks to the mostly casual approach of this title. You’ll even get rewarded with collectibles such as art cards, character cards, and much more per track that you finish, which makes finishing everything pretty rewarding.

You won’t get to choose your favorite track right away, as you’ll have to earn them through various means. Nothing too complicated, and you’ll literally just play and play until you unlock the whole track list. This might be a turn-off for others, as some rhythm games will have everything unlocked from the get go, so you’ll have to work quite a bit to get to that track you’ve been looking out for.

I’m no genius when it comes to the ins and outs of the Kingdom Hearts soundtrack, but you can bet your Keyblade that your favorite track is included in the game. Yes, Simple and Clean and Sanctuary is also here, and it probably makes it a sure buy for some just because of those 2 songs. Sadly, no Japanese versions for both tracks, at least we didn’t find any.

What makes a game like this “good” lies in the strength of its library of tracks and needless to say, Melody of Memory makes a very strong case on that front.

’til your fingers cramp

As you may have seen from the demo, the game handles things differently from similar rhythm games as it tries to still replicate the feeling of battling with the Heartless, just in a rhythm game-y type of way. Controls are simple to pick up, but will eventually be tough to master once you get to the more difficult portions of the game, which is why it is well appreciated that Square implemented various modes and difficulty options to ease players in, whether you are a rhythm game veteran or not.

Controls first. You’ve got 3 primary buttons to use for your “attack” – L1, R1, and / or circle. You’ll need to press either one or a combination of two or three buttons depending on the number of enemies on screen. You also have Triangle to activate your skills, but only during certain prompts. There are also the usual rhythm game sequences of holding the buttons as well as using the analog stick for trickier portions of the game. Simply put, you’ll definitely be using the whole controller for maximum engagement, and while it can it be intimidating, there is a one button mode that will solve all your worries.

For the casuals who just want to enjoy listening to their favorite songs, there’s Youtube, but where’s the fun in that?

Again, for the casuals who just want to enjoy listening to their favorite Kingdom Hearts songs, there’s the One Button Mode, which let’s you play through the tracks using just… you guessed it, one button. It’s the easiest way to breeze through everyone, and while not everyone will want to go down this path, at least the option is there for everyone to use as needed. Not gonna lie, I used this a couple of times when my old hands couldn’t really keep up with some of the more difficult tracks, no shame in that!

Around the world

World Tour is where you’ll be spending most of your time in the game. As the name suggests, World Tour is kind of like the Story mode or the Campaign mode for Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory, but there are a few things here that will make it more than worth your while.

Stating it again, Melody of Memory serves as a retelling of the Kingdom Hearts story thus far, as narrated by Kairi. Scattered throughout the world are movie sequences which you can unlock and replay that will give you a refresher in bite sized pieces. We’re not one to spoil, but fans who are heavily invested in the Kingdom Hearts lore will want to go through the game for some very surprising details, especially towards the end part of the game. In fact, the game has some pacing problems, as a lot of its exciting moments really happens towards the end. Thankfully, it doesn’t take too long to get to it, as a normal playthrough will see you spend around 6-8 hours depending on how you play.

You also have to temper your expectations, as some story beats will be left out due to the condensed nature of the storytelling, but since the game is really made for fans of the series, then it shouldn’t pose too much of a problem. Even if you don’t care too much about the story, Melody of Memory eases you in properly, making it a great entry point for newcomers.

To break the monotony, there are what’s called Memory Dives and Boss Battles. Memory Dives will let you replay a track, usually with vocals like Simple and Clean, with a cinematic backdrop that plays a bit differently, prompting the use of the analog sticks as part of the motions needed. Boss Battles stand out in particular, as these encounters will heavily involve skill activations and gameplay similar to Memory Dives. My only gripe about the Boss Battles is that the sidewards orientation makes it tough to time the button presses properly, so it might take a bit of getting used to.

What we liked:

  • Massive song collection
  • Engaging gameplay
  • Good difficulty settings that will cater to all levels of players
  • Tons of collectibles for the most avid of Kingdom Hearts fans
  • Canon to the KH story, which makes it a must play for fans.

What we didn’t like:

  • Rhythm games have a very niche target, whatever franchise you slap onto it
  • Canon to the story, non rhythm game fans but KH fans will find it hard to splurge.

Verdict: Buy It

As a rhythm game, Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory does the job and does it exceedingly well. With the massive library of tracks and even how it translated an action-rpg game into a whole new genre, the game succeeds at that objective. Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory offers a ton of content to burn through, even compared to similar rhythm titles, so there is no lack of activities to do and collectibles to complete in the game.

Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory has just enough storytelling to convey the events thus far, and sets up the next chapter of the game pretty nicely. Thinking about it, this game is actually essential for a fan of the series, I kid you not when I say this. There is more to this rhythm game than meets the eye!

While it is quite pricey for the type of game that it is, Melody of Memory has so much content for players to enjoy that could justify the purchase of the full price tag. Overall, Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory is a game that appeal to non-fans of both rhythm based titles or of the franchise.

*Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory was reviewed on a PS4 Pro via a review code provided by the publisher.

The OMG Review
Our review format is not your usual fare and we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings!

“Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above.

“Wait for it…” means that the game probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point, we suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10.

“Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future, unless you want to intentionally hurt yourself. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: November 12, 2020
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
  • Genre: Platformer
  • Similar Games: LittleBigPlanet
  • Price: Starts at PHP2,990

Before Dreams, Media Molecule’s LittleBigPlanet series was the avenue to let out your creativity in game design. Aside from great platforming, it also introduced gamers to another well-known face of the PlayStation: the lovable Sackboy.

From his debut in LittleBigPlanet, Sackboy has been a popular gaming icon with his cute appearance, and how fun it was to customize his look! This bundle of yarn is stepping away from LittleBigPlanet and into a big new adventure that’s coming to both the PlayStation 4 and 5.

Is this a journey worth taking with Sackboy or would you rather go adventuring somewhere else? Here’s our review of Sackboy: A Big Adventure and for brevity, we’ll just call it Sackboy, cool?

Craftworld Crisis

Welcome back to Craftworld, home of the Sackfolks. As they happily live out their lives, out of the blue an evil entity known as Vex captures Sackboy’s people and forces them to build his evil Topsy Turver machine.

Once completed, Vex plans to use it to change Craftworld from a world of imagination and dreams into one of chaos and nightmares. Being the title character and all, it’s up to Sackboy to put a stop to his plans and save his people. Thus begins a big new adventure to save Craftworld.

sackboy: a big adventure screenshot 1

From the get go, Sackboy’s plot is pretty simple, and it isn’t going to win any awards when it comes to narrative. There’s nothing exactly deep or groundbreaking about the saving-a-peaceful-world-that’s-suddenly-terrorized-by-a-big-baddie plot.

As a matter of fact, there isn’t exactly any backstory about the main villain Vex. He really just came out of nowhere to cause trouble for the Sackfolks, what a jerk. It would have been nice to know more about Vex as he was interesting to watch in the game. But what the game lacks in storytelling depth, it makes up for it in pretty much everything else.

A Big and Beautiful Adventure

It wouldn’t be too far off to consider Sackboy: A Big Adventure the fourth entry in the LittleBigPlanet series. If you’ve been playing it since the beginning, familiar elements return like the Score and Prize Bubbles and the Collectabells that were first seen in LittleBigPlanet 3. Aside from these returning mechanics, Sackboy will not have a Create Mode. Unlike previous games, you don’t get to create your own levels and share them with other PlayStation users online.

I won’t really miss the Create Mode because as early as now, I can say that Sackboy is a great 3d platformer, and a very beautiful one at that. From the moment the campaign cinematic begins to when you’re playing your first level, the game is simply full of charm and wonder.

sackboy: a big adventure screenshot 2

LittleBigPlanet is known for its vibrant colors and imaginative stages and that tradition is continued beautifully here in Sackboy. Everything you see, even the backgrounds, are such a treat to the eyes that you can’t help but stare in awe while playing. The closest comparison I can think of is like setting foot inside a theme park for the very first time where everything catches your attention, mouth wide open and all that.

sackboy: a big adventure screenshot 3

This eye candy is seen from start to finish, as the game will take you to many different locales that look significantly different from each other. One minute you’re traversing a jungle themed location and the next thing, you’re riding bubbles in an underwater wonderland. The anticipation of what kind of themed location will be next was enough to keep me going and it was a blast with each new discovery.

As an extra added bonus, you’re able to customize your Sackboy’s appearance with a variety of costumes, either collected as you play or buy in Zom Zom’s store using CollectaBells. These costumes come in individual parts or complete sets, and dressing up your Sackboy really makes up for the lack of a create mode.

sackboy: a big adventure screenshot 4

Hands down, Sackboy is also a winner in the audio department in almost every way. While the story is simple, the voice actors portrayed their characters with such enthusiasm. Vex’s voice actor, for example, relished in making Vex a charming villain. The same can be said about Sackboy’s wise mentor Scarlet, as well as the various NPCs Sackboy will meet on his adventure.

While there are numerous catchy BGMs that you will hear throughout the game, what really stuck are the licensed music tracks in certain levels that I didn’t know I needed, but here we are. It didn’t actually occur to me that there was licensed music in the game until I started to hear a familiar tune during a certain level, which turned out to be Uptown Funk. It was such a treat that part of the fun was finding out what other tracks the game had, and seriously there were times that I had to stop and listen to make sure if it was something I knew or not.

LittleBigPlanet it is not

Stepping away a little bit from his dominantly 2.5d platforming roots, this is Sackboy’s first foray into full 3d platforming and one of the most striking changes is the introduction of multiple camera angles. Some levels will have the familiar 2.5d view but don’t be surprised when the perspective occasionally changes to an isometric, 3rd person, or even top view angle.

sackboy: a big adventure screenshot 5

Each level was designed pretty well, because the transition of perspectives kept the platforming fresh. Just when I thought I was going to do some 2d platforming, I’m now walking up walls to advance the level. This experience made my estimated 13-hour campaign exciting, with each level filled with activities that did not feel stretched out.

During your romp through each of the levels in Craftworld’s different locales, exploration and interaction is highly encouraged to be able to “complete” a level. This is how you’re going to get those coveted CollectaBells and Score Bubbles after all.

sackboy: a big adventure screenshot 6

Now while it’s possible to get every Dreamer Orb or be able to finish a level on your first try, it might not always happen. Fortunately, the game is very generous in how it keeps track of your record, especially of Dreamer Orbs. You’re free to focus on one goal at a time and you don’t need to re-acquire Dreamer Orbs you already got the first time.

A less difficult Crash 4

While Sackboy is not as difficult as Crash Bandicoot’s latest game, don’t expect it to completely hand you every collectible on a silver platter. The game is still a challenge to play, especially if you’re aiming to get 100% in every level. The fact that every restart deducts an amount from your Score Bubbles is enough motivation not to mess up. Add to that the different puzzle elements that you need to figure out to get some of those hidden goodies and you’ve got quite the task ahead of you.

Overall, the puzzles in the game are not very difficult, but will still require some work and risk taking on your end. It’s especially brilliant when you see a platform nearly off screen that looks accessible but the camera won’t move unless you take that leap of faith and only then you’ll discover the path to a Dreamer Orb. Moments like these can be found throughout the game and it does lead to quite the feeling of accomplishment.

sackboy: a big adventure screenshot 7

Vex’s minions are out there to stop you and there’s quite the assortment to deal with. As cute as they are to look at, they’ll want nothing more than to take out our hero. Fortunately, Sackboy is prepared as he can slap, spin, and nosedive enemies into submission.

It’s also great that some levels will offer tools that are not only needed to advance but can be used in combat as well. The Whirltool, for example, is a boomerang that can cut through thorns but also doubles as a ranged weapon. There are other cool stuff that Sackboy can pick up like umbrellas and…a fish. Yes, a fish.

It’s possible to complete the game alone and my initial 13 hour playthrough of the main story campaign  already included some backtracking for Dreamer Orbs, but that number can be bumped up because of that extra element of fun because playing through the game with other Sackfolks, whether it be online or through local coop, though at the time of writing online multiplayer has not been enabled yet.

sackboy: a big adventure screenshot 8

Not All Glam and Glitter

For all its charm, we also have some gripes about Sackboy. The new perspectives were definitely a fresh take for the series, though honestly they are sometimes frustrating, especially the isometric views.

sackboy: a big adventure screenshot 9

If the latest Crash Bandicoot game reminded us of anything, it’s that precision is very important for a platformer. Some sections of the game made it particularly hard to gauge how far you’re jumping or where you are going to land, making it more frustrating that it should be. The same can be said during the top view sections of the game, where you won’t see exactly how high you’re jumping so you might end up getting hit instead of stomping on an enemy.

Despite the inspired level design, the same can’t be said about the bosses and sub-bosses. They’re not complete pushovers, and some will prove to be challenging, but they often repeat mechanics and patterns that make them easier than they should be.

sackboy: a big adventure screenshot 10

There were also some weird glitches like a screen going completely black on the world map, but you know the game was still running because you can hear it and button prompts were still coming out. Also, in some levels, dialogue boxes were still appearing long after you’ve left the NPC you were talking to in the stage.

What We Liked:

  • Creative level designs
  • Great voice acting
  • Amazing soundtrack and use of licensed music
  • Beautiful graphics
  • Fair difficulty

What we didn’t like:

  • Top and isometric views made platforming sometimes difficult
  • Repetitive boss fights
  • Various forgivable glitches

Verdict: Buy It!

Sackboy: A Big Adventure offers a great platforming experience that has the right balance of difficulty and eye candy, despite some of the minor glitches and frustrating perspectives. The experience pointed to a well optimized game, with minimal loading times that would sometimes make you wonder if you were playing on a PS4.

With the game coming out on the PlayStation 5 as well, this playthrough only made want to try the game out on the next-gen console even more because if Sackboy was already able to deliver a great gaming experience on the current generation, with amazing graphics and decent loading times, then it would be safe to say it will run even better on the PlayStation 5, with all of the bells and whistles.

What else can we say? Sackboy: A Big Adventure is worth experiencing, even on the PS4. While the PS5 is the obvious choice for this gem of a game, Sackboy was still a joy to play from start to finish and let’s just say that even after finishing the story, there’s still something left for the completionists out there.

After experiencing everything that Sackboy: A Big Adventure had to offer, it’s definitely much clearer to me why Sackboy remains such an endearing video game mascot. The PlayStation may not have a single official mascot, but this game is definitely a reminder of why Sackboy is such a strong contender for that title. He’s back in top form and this is simply an amazing adventure you won’t regret taking.

*Sackboy: A Big Adventure was reviewed on a PS4 Pro via a review code provided by the publishers.

The OMG Review
Our review format is not your usual fare and we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings!

“Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above.

“Wait for it…” means that the game probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point, we suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10.

“Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future, unless you want to intentionally hurt yourself. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: November 10, 2020
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One X|S, Xbox Series X|S
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy JRPG
  • Similar Games: Yakuza series; Persona 5
  • Price: Starts at PHP2,495

Yakuza: Like A Dragon is the eighth mainline installment in the long running Yakuza or Ryu ga Gotoku series of games hearkening back from 2005. With the inclusion of Judgment, their parody side stories like Yakuza Dead Souls, and their reskin of the Fist of the North Star, it’s an understatement to say that this series is huge in its own right. Personally, I felt the series creator Toshiro Nagoshi took what worked in Yu Suzuki’s Shenmue and built on it to create this gigantic franchise.

Yakuza: Like a Dragon, or Ryu ga Gotoku 7 in Japan, departs from its open world brawler genre to take a classic Japanese RPG approach akin to Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. Also, long-time series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu bows out to have the new protagonist Ichiban Kasuga taking on a new chapter of the franchise. As a Yakuza fan and a long-time JRPG aficionado, it’s a match made in gamer paradise.

Kasuga is a low ranking Yakuza grunt who took a fall at the behest of his patriarch and served 18 years for a crime he did not commit. Coming out of jail, Kasuga expects to be taken back with open arms only to be shot by said patriarch. Homeless and disgraced, waking up in the Isezaki Ijincho Distrct of Yokohama; Kasuga joins a crew of misfits to clean up the mean streets as a self-made hero. As he gets back up on his feet and his legend grows, he longs for the day to return to Kamurocho and reclaim his place. 

The off-beat nature of the game already got me going months ago after trying out the Japanese demo, whetting my appetite for more. However, I was cautiously optimistic for this title because of open world fatigue and how the recent iterations of the genre suffer from this most notably in Judgment

There’s this sinking feeling that while I got a good two hours of gameplay from the demo, I was wondering when the novelty would wane and I was left with a tired gimmick that many JRPGs had succumbed to since the eighth generation.

Is Kasuga the Ichiban successor to the throne left behind by Kiryu? Or is he merely another pretender like Yagami and Kenshiro before him, seeking to keep the series alive now that we’re sick of their repackaged mini-games that have not changed since the first Yakuza?

I Grew Up On These Streets

As an avid fan of the series, I’m always excited to see Kamurocho grow throughout the times. From the decadent Babylon they’ve built in Yakuza Zero, to the gentrified mess it is today, Kamurocho still maintained the same blueprint that it feels like a part of town you’ve grown up in. So when I booted up the game to Kamurocho on New Year’s Eve, December 31st, 2000 – I was excited because it was five years prior to the legend of Kazuma Kiryu and you get to see the town in renovation. Check out my Walking Tour for more details!

Back to simpler days

Continuing the story, the prologue details the two biggest character forces. On one hand, you have Ichiban Kasuga, a failure of a Yakuza because of his insistence of doing community service rather than actually doing his duties as an enforcer. On the other side is the tale of a washed out crime boss Masumi Arakawa, Kasuga’s patriarch and father figure. As seen in the plot summary above, you know it’s not going to go down well and we get a blow-by-blow account on how it happens.

I appreciate how the story unfolds between the two and you get a clear picture of the characters. You get to know them right away and empathize with their struggle. Also they foreshadow story arcs that would continue later on, which is the strongest points of the franchise’s storytelling. However, just like the previous franchises, they overstay their welcome quickly and I wished they could just pace the dialogue better. It’s not aiming for high art like The Last of Us 2, so they could’ve just cut it by half.

Times have changed

When Chapter Two unfolds, the best part of how the prologue ends is a stark comparison of the Kamurocho of Old and its contemporary. Kasuga becomes a man out of time and we can sympathize with his lack of knowledge of modern trends, and his personal frustration and loss at the betrayal he encounters. Now if we could just have that in twenty words or fewer, could we just skip all that J-Drama nonsense and move on to bashing heads? Preferably with fewer loading times?

The JRPG Is Strong With This One

Thematically, the entire personality of Ichiban Kasuga carries the organic unity of this piece. I really find it ingenious that they chose a dying (or dead to some people) genre to revive in order to tell his story. As explained before, Kasuga grew up on the Dragon Quest games, hence he sees the world as one big Dragon Quest sim. It’s also fitting that the gaming world has moved on to Monster Hunter and here we have Kasuga still raving about his JRPGs.

As laid out in my First Impressions, the biggest improvement this battle system had to other JRPGs is the use of positioning. The only other JRPG that mastered this is Final Fantasy VII Remake. Depending on where you stand, your success in battle could be improved or reduced on how you manipulate your environment to suit your needs.

You could edge all your opponents in one cluster so your party can deal AoE just by splash damage from their attacks. Your party members can act like walls preventing your opponent from reaching your healer. Environment items can be used against your opponent or against you if you find yourself in the proper area in the proper time.

Battle commands such as skills are also dynamic as you could increase the damage output by following the command inputs onscreen. You either could mash a button or hit a well-timed strike for more damage. Perfect Guard could be used by pressing the O (or the A button in Xbox) at the right time to either dodge an attack or reduce damage taken from conventional ones. These commands can be used during Auto-Battle, allowing for a dynamic flow that cuts through the tedium that of classic JRPG randomized fights.

That’s an odd place to put a save point

Also what was amusing was that those “story missions” from the original Yakuza are now dungeons in this iteration with a save point waiting in the end before a change in setting or a boss fight. Treasures are all around and it’s quite a fun throwback to the JRPGs of old.

The Measure of A Man

Throughout the journey, Kasuga Ichiban grows as a character through his Personality. It is akin to the Social Skills in Persona where their personality type can affect changes in the gameplay both in battle and in interactions with NPCs. In fact status effects are affected by your personality gauge. For example, high charisma allows you to convince opponents to leave you alone and give you an item for good measure.

Personality is divided into several types: The aforementioned Charisma, Intellect, Kindness, Passion, Style, and Confidence. They could be increased through using growth items and through dialogue options encountered in both the Main Story and Sub Stories, similar to how it is earned in Persona. As you progress later in the game, you will have access to a vocational school where you could increase stats for a hefty sum and requires you to pass various exams or complete the challenges in Part Time Hero.

The Job System is a literal interpretation of the Final Fantasy job/class system. You have to qualify and apply for these odd jobs and you earn skills and exclusive equipment that you could use in battle and in your exploration. To qualify for these jobs, your personality traits must be of a certain level. Thus, you have a Character Level and a Job Level that expands your repertoire and your contribution to the main team. Other Player Characters have unique jobs the same way only Kasuga can be a Yakuza, Deadbeat, Freelancer, and of course Hero.

The great thing about the job system is that while it is in some ways a parody of JRPGs in general, it changes up your play style on the different strengths and weaknesses of said job. While a bodyguard class is focused on its tank capabilities, musicians are support classes, while breakdancers (breakers) use the fighting style Majima had in Yakuza Zero. It stretches much of the source material without making it feel forced, plus thematically, you’re dealing with a bunch of unemployed geezers looking for work so it’s not too much of a stretch to add this mechanic.

I heard KISS needed a sessional guitarist.

Non-JRPG gamers have always wondered what the appeal of the JRPG is and personally, it’s this unique way of interactive character development. What I loved about Persona is how they’ve expanded on this sub-category through their Social Skills and Social Links. I liked what the Yakuza series has done to explore this category in JRPGs.

A lot of effort has been made to curb the stigma of what players have complained about JRPGs regarding outdated mechanics such as save points and grinding. Save points only exist in dungeon levels and once you’re out on the streets you could save anywhere, giving veteran gamers a taste of the good old days.

Player characters getting knocked out does not result in lost experience this time around, so support classes need not worry grinding extra hours due to lost experience from bosses and rare enemies. Though if Kasuga is knocked out, you lose half your money on hand. So keep banking that hard earned cash, you’ll need it.

I find that many recent JRPGs attempt to reinvent their combat mechanics, but Yakuza: Like a Dragon has kept it simple and conventional but added some subtle differences. Take note developers, this is all you really have to do to get our attention. Give us the same conventional combat, but tweak it a little so it feels fresh. Focus more on the character development and the leveling system, because I find that it becomes its own reward, transforming it into an addictive mechanic.

It’s Dangerous To Go Alone!

The one thing when playing the previous Yakuza games was the fact that you mostly just got the point of view of Kazuma Kiryu with some exceptions like Goro Majima in Yakuza Zero and Yakuza Kiwami 2. With Yakuza: Like a Dragon, you’re able to control not only Kasuga but a complete party of misfits.

Each character could be equipped and each character has their own unique job type, thus giving them varied and diverse moves. You first get Adachi, a disgraced detective to join you as early as Chapter Two and has some tank capabilities. Nanba, your first permanent party member, is a former medical practitioner turned homeless because of a shady backstory. Saeko, a bad ass bartender investigating her boss’ suspicious death, has some sweet DPS skills.

Once you have your party set up, you can take full advantage of your positioned attacks. Enemies clustered together could be taken out by one of Namba’s AoE attacks and tanky enemies could be set up with Saeko maximizing your DPS. Also each character has a unique passive ability such as Namba who regenerates MP, which makes him versatile being support or AoE magical hobo when necessary. Once you have developed a deeper bond with your characters, Chain Attacks can be set up depending on the positioning, therefore your offense doesn’t need rely on you wait for the next turn.

In the middle of Chapter Four, after completing a certain sub-story, you unlock the Poundmates app (it’s as bad as it sounds) and with it, you could unlock summon commands where you call a previously defeated opponent that let’s you deal damage, status effects, and support depending on the character. However, while it’s free to summon on your first try, it costs money to summon these guys. Save them for a worthy opponent or keep farming that yen. Everybody’s gotta eat.

Isezaki Iijincho will not replace Kamurocho by any means, but it’s a great place to grow. After all, after enough iterations, Kamurocho does tend to get stale. I found that during my Judgment run, after five chapters, I wanted a change of scenery. Yokohama’s underbelly isn’t pretty, but it has its own charm similar to how Hiroshima was tantamount to building Yakuza 6: Song of Life‘s story.

The map is huge, bigger than both Sotenbori, Kamurocho, and Hiroshima combined. Exploring the town is recommended as you can hunt for treasure, discover new restaurants, and activities galore. However, make sure you raise your Personality a little, some challenges and features are behind a social barrier. Yet what this game doesn’t lack in is content and activities, you’re sure to increase your stats with extra radiant quests generated by Part Time Hero unlocked at Chapter Five.

Wow, she has high standards

When you unlock Survive Bar, your hangout spot, you can build a Bond with your characters through Party Chats, Battle Experience, and Table Talk. It is a much simpler mechanic compared to Social Links in Persona. Table Talk is similar to the Chat minigame from Yakuza 6: Song of Life where you listen to your party members’ woes and you gain personality points and bond level.

Character Bond adds extra benefits when it comes to battle and exploration, such as attack follow-ups and extra experience earned when not in the main party. Also when other characters need to change jobs, the higher tier jobs are unlocked by the bond level you’ve built alongside their Character Level. So when a character wants to spark up a conversation through party chat, let them and listen all the way until the end.

When you are about to level up a Bond Level, you invite them to a meal, a drink, or an exclusive character quest to escalate your relationship further. Once your bond has been maximized, not only do they gain more experience when they’re not in the party, you also gain access to Tag Team Attacks as well. They are combination attacks similar to Chrono Trigger, which use up a considerable amount of MP but you’re rewarded with a funny cut scene and more damage.

Just like the characters, Yokohama grows on you. They’ve improved on exploration quite a bit in this iteration using mechanics that worked in Judgment and Fist of the North Star for good measure. You can avoid or pursue randomized battles as foes are shown on the map. Plus, fast travel can now be accessed on the menu with your Taxi App, but you still have to pay extra for the fare.

Depending on the current mainline quest activated, you could almost access every part of the map to treasure hunt, eat at restaurants, drink in bars, shop in boutiques, and play mini-games. However, don’t explore too far, enemies five levels higher than your own can introduce you to a world of hurt. Stay away from Koreatown for now, you can find your BTS merchandise elsewhere.

Is Kasuga The Ichiban Choice?

There’s something undeniably endearing with Ichiban Kasuga as a character. He’s an underdog who’s been beat down throughout his life, but will stop at nothing to live his truth. I don’t know about you, but I connect with this character. By pretending that life is an RPG and seeing that you’re a chosen one by your own standard; if it balances out your mental health, why not? However, if that puts ideas in your head to start beating passersby for experience points and extra cash, well that’s obviously when you draw the line.

I feel that unlike many heroes’ journeys in games and in comic books, it’s really difficult these days to relate to a “paragon of justice”. It’s much easier to connect to the every man, the anti-hero, the rando. Kasuga is that and more, because no matter how beat up he gets, he remembers where he’s from and the people who have made him who he is today.

You do you, Kasuga

Compared to a catalyst character like Kazuma Kiryu, Ichiban Kasuga embodies a definitive protagonist. He’s not perfect and with that you feel his personal stake in the story. Kiryu is a type of character that feels that he can conquer anything and anyone with his demonic strength.

In a way, now it feels like a real Yakuza story because Kasuga has more to lose when he hits rock bottom. He carries a certain level of humility that equates him to the player. These traits are admirable and will get you through the slower areas of the game when it comes to story.

Novelty or Gimmicky?

Like every Yakuza game before it, momentum doesn’t really pick up until Chapter Five. Until then, be prepared for an exposition dump unlike the other Yakuza games. I understand why the massive setup, these characters are new and they need to give the audience time to allow them to grow on you.

However, we’ve seen in titles like Yakuza Zero where characters are introduced efficiently through a few good scenes. Kazuya Kiryu is introduced roughhousing another gang member but is shown as a loyal friend and chinpira. Goro Majima is introduced as this charismatic Cabaret Club manager who hides his disdain through a mask of cunning. They were some of the best introductions in gaming storytelling seen; while I wouldn’t count out Kasuga and Arakawa’s introductions as stale, they weren’t as efficiently presented.

This hit way too close to home

Truth be told, once you get going, at least for the first 40 hours, the momentum is magnetic and I was hooked on the new battle system. New mini-games have been introduced and there’s no obligation to play them unless you want their specific rewards. Each mini-game doles out their own currency and you could buy rewards with currency earned from that. Unless you’re gunning for a platinum, these mini-games are completely optional and you don’t need to pursue them to complete the story.

One small hiccup is that they combined my much beloved Cabaret Club Grand Prix and the Real Estate Business Management mini-games from Yakuza Zero into a Business Management mini-game in Like A Dragon with somewhat mixed results. I loved how they’ve improved on the Cabaret Club Czar into the Grand Prix version in Yakuza Kiwami 2, and I feel it’s the best part of that game hands down.

The business building aspect is more challenging than Yakuza Zero, but I felt that they could’ve used the format of the Cabaret Club Grand Prix better. While I understand that the series needs to “keep up with the times”, they’ve used parts of the Cabaret Club for the Shareholder Meeting showdown part and it felt forced. It’s almost as if they needed to match the past “feature” mini-games of Yakuza into one aspect, but they could’ve just improved on the Grand Prix and even added more layers to it and personally that would’ve been a more welcome addition.

The Can Quest mini-game was loads of fun though as it involves a Destruction Derby style game where you ride your bike and collect cans. You collect boosts and try to crash into your rival collectors to steal a bit of their stash. It’s like a 3D Pacman with aspects of Burnout thrown in for a laugh.

I’m relieved that they removed the level gain from the Challenges Quest present from the original Yakuza games. I feel that the more you complete said activities, you get stronger easily, but really takes a toll on your Open World Fatigue. Instead, they’re there to increase your Personality, but you don’t need an epic level or gear to beat the game. As said before, the mini-games are there if you want trophies or to get gear. Also you could grind mini-games like in previous games to farm money quickly, but it gets boring restarting the game to maximize your RNG.

When you think that Yakuza doesn’t get any more bizarre with their sub-stories and mini-games, I think this iteration has taken the cake on the limits of strangeness. There’s this mini-game where you try to stay awake in a film only to be attacked by R.E.M. – Rams, pushing you to fall asleep. It’s quite the stuff of nightmares. Plus you refer to your assailants as “Sujimon” and collect them in a compendium called the “Sujidex”. At this point, nothing could surprise me with this franchise, so I just accept it and laugh.

There is a point where I ask myself why I like this game because of the cognitive dissonance experienced when these bizarre sub-stories and mini-games happen. They border between downright offensive and truly endearing. However, it’s just so over-the-top that you just accept it and move on, and it’s just from the warped minds of Nagoshi and friends.

There was this sub-story where we meet Gondawara and his goons last seen in Yakuza Kiwami 2 who has a particular kink of role-playing as infants. After defeating them in battle, they proceed to give child rearing advice to an overworked salaryman who’s a new father, speaking from the point of view of an infant. While it strangely tugs on heartstrings, they push the envelope even further when they invite Kasuga to chug down baby formula like it was premium shochu. It just has to be seen to be believed.

To answer the question I initially asked, how you get sick of the novelty will depend on you. Forty hours into the game, I’m still amused by its off-beat charm. Kasuga is a relatable character for gamers of a certain age and a certain passion group. Of course, it is niched as all hell, but I feel that the biggest strength of the Yakuza series is creating these ultimately likeable characters that grow on you. I felt the same with Judgment with Yagami and the gang warming up to you despite the hokey courtroom drama copied from Ace Attorney.

While much of the game’s extra features such as jobs, item crafting, garden tending, most of the mini-games including karaoke, Dragon Kart races, and bond building don’t open up until Chapter Five (some could be discovered in Chapter Four if you’re tenacious), I feel that the game eases you into such a massive and complex world. While they’ve mixed it up a bit and eased you in to soften the Open World Fatigue, it would be best to pace yourself and stick with the mainline quest and pick and choose from the activities provided. This way, you could ease on the overwhelm.

Finally, I feel that the game has tackled some issues quite relatable in this day and age. Job security, government support, self-confidence as you reach middle age with little or no achievements; the game tackles a lot of these topics either with humor pushing a message of hope that no matter where you are in life, you could still pick yourself back up. If Death Stranding was 2020 captured in a game, I’d say Like A Dragon is the 2016-2020 zeitgeist captured in game, all they need is reference to a pandemic of some kind to take it home.

We still need better representation though

What We Liked

  • Kamurocho evolving throughout the years but staying the same, it’s probably one of the most dynamic setting in video game history.
  • Seamless JRPG experience keeping the genre fresh and cutting tedium from conventional titles, ultimately blending the brawler mechanic with the JRPG aspect.
  • New Characters, especially Ichiban Kasuga, are charming and memorable and hopefully we see more of them in the future.
  • Job System and Personality Archetypes builds character both in stats in and in story.
  • The Challenge Quest is not tied with your level progress but with your Personality traits. It’s purely optional to boost up, mainly to score higher level gear and trophies, thus reduces Open World Fatigue.

What We Didn’t Like

  • Long story beats kill game momentum just like in previous Yakuza titles.
  • The loading times between those story beats kill the remaining motivation you have if it hasn’t already.
  • It takes until Chapter Five before much of the game features open up to the player.

Verdict: Buy It!

If you’re a fan, I wonder why you haven’t bought it yet and are still reading my review? Don’t let the JRPG schematic fool you, it’s still at its core a Yakuza game, warts and all. Will it redefine and revitalize the JRPG genre? I doubt it, I don’t think Final Fantasy can do it either. However, they took what worked historically with the genre and created something fun and quirky that can last you for hours on end.

While I feel that the storytelling could’ve been simplified a bit, the time spent on these characters will allow you to get to know them better and hopefully you’ll warm up to them given the chance. All it asks from you is five to eight hours of pure unadulterated attention to their long dialogue filled with exposition. Not many will get past this very dragging phase but after that, you have an enjoyable JRPG experience with a layered story that exudes an off-beat charm and humor.

Personally, the fact that the series is willing to change it up and not succumb to its real grievances in the past such as Open World Fatigue and Mini-game Stress shows that they’re not settling for less. Making them optional and allowing you to focus on character development is a step in the right direction by the Ryu ga Gotoku studio. Props to Nagoshi and friends, I can’t wait for the next one.

The OMG Review
Our review format is not your usual fare and we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings!

“Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above.

“Wait for it…” means that the game probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point, we suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10.

“Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future, unless you want to intentionally hurt yourself. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: October 30, 2020
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
  • Genre: Interactive movie, Horror
  • Similar Games: The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan, Until Dawn, Detroit: Become Human
  • Price: Starts at PHP1,295

Man of Medan was just the beginning for Supermassive Games’ Dark Pictures Anthology. After a horrifying experience at sea on the Ourang Medan, the second entry in the Anthology brings us back to dry land and to the quiet but ominous town of Little Hope.

Those who played Man of Medan should already know what to expect from Little Hope in terms of gameplay and tone. Strap yourselves in for a suspenseful ride as we get into the nitty gritty of an abandoned and mysterious ghost town in the second game that is The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope.

Welcome to Little Hope

Little Hope puts us in the shoes of five individuals, all the victims of an unfortunate accident after their bus was forced to take a detour through the titular town of Little Hope. Stuck in the middle of nowhere and mysteriously kept inside the town by a fog (sounds familiar?), college students Andrew, Taylor, Daniel, and Angela, along with their professor John, must figure out what happened to their missing bus driver and survive, as the ghost town of Little Hope is anything but abandoned and hospitable.

The game has this clever way of storytelling as after a prologue we’re introduced to the Curator, a recurring character in the Anthology as he introduces us to Little Hope and tasks us to help finish the story by guiding our five characters, making decisions along the way and influencing the outcome.

Some Silent Hill vibes.

Occasionally the game will actually bring us back to the Curator, reminding us that we’re not alone on this journey. He also tells you how you’ve been progressing, making very cryptic remarks and will even provide useful hints should you want them. Either way, the Curator may come off a bit condescending, but I believe that’s what the developers were going for. It does make him a bit memorable and he should be, being the face that you’ll likely be seeing a lot of in the Anthology.

Look at that smug face.

Playing the first title in the anthology, Man of Medan, is completely unnecessary as Little Hope has little to no connection to the previous game. From what I can tell, they’re linked only as far as they’re part of an Anthology. If the series will be following the same formula, all we just need to know is the recurring theme is a story that we need to decide the outcome of and we’ll have our mysterious Curator observing every step of the way.

Decide Their Fate

Little Hope plays like an interactive movie along the lines of Detroit: Become Human and Supermassive Games’ previous title, Until Dawn. You’ll be watching our characters as they go about their situations and occasionally you’ll be presented with different ways to affect the flow of the story.

Expect things like sudden quick time events where you must press a button within a time limit, or button sequences where you must time your presses, and you can’t forget the occasional branching decisions wherein you’re asked to choose a certain path or in the case of conversations choose the response that jives with you.

That’s not all you’re going to do as there will be times where you can freely control your character so you can go around looking for clues and secrets that can help you piece together the narrative. But do not expect much from this as there’s not a lot and the most you will do is walk and look for shiny points of interests to interact with. It feels very lacking in this sense, and is a complete contradiction to the myriad of branching choices given by the game.

This is no survival horror gig, where you need to manage ammo and solve elaborate puzzles to advance. You’re pretty much on a rail with minimal freedom and different endings. In every sense of the word, it’s an interactive horror movie.

You won’t be controlling just one character too as the game will constantly switch among the five you’ll be helping survive and let’s just say this isn’t a fun field trip where everybody gets along and hold hands walking together.

Aside from affecting the paths you’ll be following in the game, the choices you make will also affect your relationship with other characters as responses you can give range from hostile to supportive, or simply say nothing at all. This will be important as your relationship with characters will determine the responses the game will provide you with. The game will also keep track of who you were mean or nice to.

It’s pretty much the meat of the game, as the decisions you make will determine how the game goes and ends. And there isn’t any wrong answers here too. It’s your story to craft as much as it is of the characters you’re controlling, which works very for replayability of the game.

Whether you’re the saint who wants everybody to survive or the sadistic prick that makes every character mean to each other and want to make sure nobody survives the night is completely up to you. By all means, mess up a playable moment on purpose just to see how things will turn out. It’s just another option anyways.

A little on the average side

A horror game lives and dies by the experience, and Little Hope plays it a little too safe that it somehow hurts the bottom line. There is no doubt that Little Hope is a scary game and it may make you jump your seat, but the game depends too much on tried and tested familiar horror elements that during your initial 5 or 6 hour playthrough, the game becomes very predictable.

Jumpscares are used a little too often that it gets repetitive at some point, even diminishing the scare that it was going for. Another element that’s used a lot to incite some level of suspense is foreshadowing. Let’s just say whenever the cameras zooms out and shows a random shot away from the characters, expect that something is going to show up to surprise you, which will also give you a hint on what’s to come.

If there’s anything that’s going in Little Hope’s favor, it’s the story. The game did a pretty good job with how the story went that I didn’t see the twists coming. Sharper players though may pick up on the hints given throughout by the game, and even by the Curator himself. Either way, it was a good story to follow, although one that won’t exactly stick with me for long.

And let’s not forget that my initial outcome is just one of many possible ways for the story to end, which may bump that 5 to 6 hour playtime a bit higher. But it will depend on how attached you got to our five protagonists that you’ll want to decide their fates. Though I got familiar with everyone by the end, none really stood out that could make any of them potential video game icons.

Herein lies the main problem of Little Hope. The game provides so much choices and branches that ideally, you’d want to see all of it, but the journey towards these choices are largely unremarkable that the characters don’t really leave a mark on the player, making them just puppets instead of personalities you would care for.

If anything, Little Hope feels like a by-the-book interactive movie that checks all the boxes delivering an experience that’s just right but not exactly memorable.

What we liked:

  • Branching paths and choices
  • Decent writing and acting

What we didn’t like:

  • Predictable horror elements
  • Forgettable playable characters

Verdict:

Little Hope had a decent story with some unexpected twists, but the overreliance on jump scares made the experience very predictable. Add a group of hardly memorable characters that you don’t care too much for, and the journey really loses you along the way.

That being said, Little Hope is priced very fairly for a brand new title, making the price of admission rather cheap. Value wise, you’re getting a replayable game with multiple branches and endings, but the path you’re taking for it isn’t exactly the most exciting or scary one.

All in all, the second entry in The Dark Pictures Anthology is an interactive horror movie that can be worth its weight after a sale. Despite its low starting price, it doesn’t promote a must play vibe due to its predictability and textbook implementation.

*The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope was reviewed on a PS4 Pro via a review code provided by the publisher.

The OMG Review
Our review format is not your usual fare and we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings!

“Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above.

“Wait for it…” means that the game probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point, we suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10.

“Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future, unless you want to intentionally hurt yourself. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: October 29, 2020
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch
  • Genre: Beat ’em up
  • Similar Games: Musou series
  • Price: Starts at PHP2,195

Kamen Rider is a beloved Tokusatsu franchise that’s just as big as Super Sentai/Power Rangers. The franchise centers on masked heroes with different motifs (usually insects) that use motorcycles, change forms using cool gimmicky belts, and fight using different weapons ranging from but not limited to swords and guns.

It’s a series that’s ripe with imagination, one that has spawned quite a number of games over the years. Its latest entry entitled Memory of Heroez, is being touted as a “Hero Chain Action” game and is now available for the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. Does it Rider Kick its way to greatness or does it fail to impress just like one of Hiden Aruto’s jokes? Here’s our review of Kamen Rider: Memory of Heroez.

A Kamen Rider’s Work Is Never Done

The setting is a new area called Sector City, where circumstances have brought three Kamen Riders together, namely Kamen Rider W (Double), Kamen Rider OOO (pronounced O’s), and the very first Rider of Japan’s Reiwa era: Kamen Rider Zero-One. A mysterious and evil scientist called Zeus is harnessing the powers from each Rider’s respective worlds, conducting nefarious experiments that put human lives at risk all to become a god. And naturally, the Kamen Riders must put a stop to his plans.

Memory of Heroez assumes that the player is familiar with the Kamen Riders. While the game is still totally playable even without prior knowledge of these characters, there are many references made to each of these Riders’ shows and major enemies like the Sonozaki family from W and the Greeed from OOO that could lose a new player in the process.

Having personally seen W and OOO, I was instantly familiar with some of the main cast. The game actually borrows a concept from the crossover movies, where the main Rider would team up with a Rider from another show to defeat a common enemy. For a Kamen Rider fan, the game plays and feels like a great nostalgia trip.

One thing I appreciate is how Memory of Heroez puts focus on just a handful of characters. Seeing as there’s a story to follow, it would be too confusing to have all the Riders from the Showa Era all the way to the latest series, Kamen Rider Saber, show up at the same time in the game. With fewer Riders, even a new player can familiarize themselves with the cast. An encyclopedia serving as a guide to each Rider would have been nice to have, we’d imagine.

A little half-baked

The game is mainly a third-person beat ‘em up. You’ll run to certain points in an area where you will be surrounded by a barrier, baddies will appear, and you will need to defeat them in order to proceed to the next area. Along the way, you will gather different Kamen Rider powers like Gaia Memories and Core Medals that will bolster each Rider’s arsenal of moves, making them stronger. Aside from their signature powers, you’ll also get access to Rider accessories like W’s Memory Gadgets and OOO’s Candroids.

Memory Gadgets are W’s tools of the trade since he works as a detective. The Denden Sensor, for example, is used to scans areas for clues or hidden items. The Spider Shock serves as a grappling hook to reach high places.

On the other hand, Candroids are OOO’s transforming animal partners that can assist you in combat, like the Tako Candroid that can fly around and spray ink at enemies to confuse them. It all sounds exciting doesn’t it? But unfortunately, that’s the first of Memory of Heroez’ shortcomings.

The game is sadly very, very repetitive to the point that it gets tedious. The “running to points and beating up enemies to advance” formula is what you’ll be doing for the majority of the game. Even in what looks like a wide open area, the game will stop to surround you with a barrier and teleport in the enemies you need to defeat. Rinse and repeat, and such a momentum breaker.

The game also tends to hold your hand a lot. While it’s appreciated that the game offers different mechanics like searching areas for clues and items or finding keys to unlock doors, you’re practically told where these hidden items are by waypoints that you just need to walk to. Remember those Rider gadgets? You don’t really get to use them freely as they’re only accessible when at specific points or when the game prompts you to.

There was a lot of potential here since Kamen Rider W is a detective, so his investigative gadgets could have been utilized better for more detective-related gameplay. As a matter of fact, after finding clues like a password to enter into a terminal, the game will tell you exactly what to enter… I mean, I guess it made sense since you’ve found all the clues already? It’s just too much hand-holding.

Same with OOO’s Candroids that you can only use when a prompt tells you that you can summon them. What doesn’t help is that if you miss this prompt and enter a fight, the opportunity to use them is lost. Then again, not summoning them may give a bit of a challenge as the grunts you face are almost pushovers, like the grunts in Musou games.

There are some RPG elements mixed in, as advancing through the game will increase your level cap, making your Kamen Riders stronger and letting you increase parameters and strengthen attacks. You won’t need to worry about running out of resources as the game is rather generous in giving them. Aside From Experience points, you also collect Enemy Codes that you can use to develop different Accelerators (accessories) that your Riders can equip.

During combat, prompts will also show to indicate an opportunity for a counterattack, which is totally the opposite of all the hand-holding the game has done so far. The timing is a little stricter than usual, so it offered a bit of a challenge, and it feels that trying to master the timing is more challenging than the defeating the enemy grunts themselves.

Fortunately, some bosses offered more of a challenge even if they were still noticeably repetitive. Bosses have 2 phases to defeat where the second will be stronger and have different attack patterns compared to the first. These patterns will need to be studied and exploited and once they’re down it’s your chance to pummel them with your Riders’ signature attacks. It’s here that Memory of Heroez somewhat succeeds as a Kamen Rider game, though don’t get your hopes completely up.

Henshin!

The main fun in Kamen Rider Memory of Heroez is feeling like a Kamen Rider and defeating the bad guys. Like we said, you slowly build up your arsenal of moves by gathering each Riders’ gadgets, which are all divided into each Rider’s respective forms.

W’s CycloneJoker form, for example, is his default but has an air dash to get through wide pitfalls. His LunaJoker form gives him some stretchable limbs where he can pull enemies near him. CycloneTrigger gives W access to his Trigger Magnum where he can shoot enemies from afar as long as he has AP remaining in his meter.

OOO’s forms, on the other hand, are based on animals where his GataKiriBa form lets him jump high and shoot electricity from his antennas. On the other hand, his PuToTyra form gives him the power of dinosaurs (though in the show it makes him go berserk).

Zero-One also has different forms based on animals like his Rising Hopper and Flying Falcon forms courtesy of ProgriseKeys that he inserts into his Zero-One Driver belt.

In other words, each Rider has a default form that’s fun and balanced, where each new form they acquire specializes in different combat aspects and has unique moves. The game lets you change form on the fly during combat. This can be either simply changing form, or doing a Form attack where your Kamen Rider will do an attack as he changes form.

Deal enough damage and you will eventually fill up your EX gauge where you can launch a power finisher. Alternatively you can use it to access a Rider’s EX form which grants you a lot of power.

From a Kamen Rider fan’s POV, these forms are accurate to their respective series and they’re well represented in combat. For example OOO’s RaToraTar form represents felines and has the same moves he used in the show like running fast and a shining beam from his head. In W’s case, his HeatJoker form lets him walk through fire.

What the game lacks in difficulty and enemy variety, it makes up on what little semblance of strategy it has when changing forms in the middle of combat. It was fun as it encourages you to come up with your own combos utilizing each Rider Forms’ strengths, but at the same time the game caps this by having each form change cost a big chunk of your AP meter, limiting your ability to pull off some insane combos.

Combos are a big part of the game as it is a big factor to get a high rating at the end of a level that rewards you with enemy codes. Getting that coveted SSS ranking is a little on the easy side and is not as tough as something like Devil May Cry so you won’t have to try too hard, but it also feels like the game just gives it to you.

Visuals scream last-gen

Memory of Heroez does not look terrible by any means, but it’s a shame that it looks like something from the PS3 rather than a PS4. The graphics look average – Sector City may have different areas like forests and deserts, but they look rather bland and forgettable. Level design looks generic as well and doesn’t really encourage exploration.

Animations could also be improved, as the Riders feel a little bit stiff when exploring or during combat. It’s a bit disappointing, as Memory of Heroez accurately depicts the riders, but falls short in the overall polish of the characters.

Nostalgia Galore

Audio is something that the fans of the series will really come to enjoy. While the game doesn’t bring back the actual actors to reprise their roles, their replacements are no slouches by any means. So when you hear Shotaro and Philip from Kamen Rider W deliver their signature “count up your sins” line, it actually sounds just like them!

In particular, if you get the Premium Sound Edition, you’ll get access to all the music from each show and the game will let you make up your own playlist. Having seen W and OOO, it was a big nostalgia factor beating up enemies to the tune of their theme songs. Form changes are also accompanied by their respective music and voices, like when Zero-One changes his Rising Hopper form and you hear that familiar “a jump to the sky changes to a Rider Kick” line. Audio in the game will certainly be a treat even for non-fans, but moreso for fans of the franchise.

What we liked:

  • Accurate Kamen Rider depiction
  • Form changing during combat is fun and offers a bit of strategy
  • Music lifted straight from the shows

What we didn’t like:

  • Repetitive gameplay mechanics
  • Clunky character movement
  • Outdated looking graphics
  • Underutilized gadgets for gameplay
  • Not very challenging

Verdict:

Kamen Rider: Memory of Heroez could have had something going for it, but falls flat on a lot of points. Despite the faithful representation of W, OOO, and Zero-One even down to their fighting styles, the game looks rather outdated and is a walk in the park that denies the player satisfaction from actually enjoying the action. The game is bogged down by repetitive gameplay which will feel tedious at a very early point.

For what you’re getting, the price point may be an issue, especially on the Switch where it’s around P2,595 compared to the PS4’s P2,195 price range.

All in all, Kamen Rider: Memory of Heroez is a tough sell even for a fan of the series. It would be hard to justify full price to get a combat game that does not even get that aspect properly implemented. If you’re a bit curious and are at least familiar with the franchise, it may be best to wait for this to go on sale.

*Kamen Rider: Memory of Heroez was reviewed on a PS4 Pro via a review code provided by the publisher.

The OMG Review
Our review format is not your usual fare and we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings!

“Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above.

“Wait for it…” means that the game probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point, we suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10.

“Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future, unless you want to intentionally hurt yourself. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: November 10, 2020
  • Platforms: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One X|S, PC
  • Genre: Open World Adventure
  • Similar Games: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, God of War (2018)
  • Price: Starts at PHP2,895

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is the new mainline entry to Ubisoft’s flagship Assassin’s Creed franchise of open world action/adventure games. For thirteen years since the introduction of Assassin’s Creed in 2007, Ubisoft have elevated themselves as a company that creates quality open world games following a specific and well-worn formula that guarantees the player a content-rich world filled with activities and an intriguing plot surrounding the forces behind the conspiracies behind our religions and ideologies. However, that formula has a downside, it has become repetitive and has stagnated in recent years.

The third of their “Antiquities” trilogy, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla follows suit from its predecessors Origins and Odyssey where the characters are set before the events of Altair’s Assassin’s Creed journey, as each adventure tackles the conflicting ideologies between the Templars and Assassin’s: Order Through Absolute Control and Freedom Through Regulated Chaos.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla continues the RPG-style progression and loot based collect-a-thon that started with Origins and further refined in Odyssey. Having completed both, I enjoyed the most recent titles as I’ve stopped with the original saga as early as Assassin’s Creed 2: Revelations, due in most part to the repetitive nature of the formula.

Completing Odyssey showed me the extent of the scale that Assassin’s Creed has reached since then. From the humble beginnings of the original Assassin’s Creed, which was at most a 35-40 hour run unless you want to complete everything to Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, which extrapolated that by a hundred-fold with the entirety of Greece to explore and conquer, playing the game left me exhausted 40 hours in and yet, I had to push to 70 hours just to complete the story.

Will Assassin’s Creed Valhalla take the same macrocosmic formula or do they have enough surprises for us to keep us motivated for dozens of hours of content? There will be no story spoilers here, so read at your own leisure!

Hello Again, Animus

Similar to Odyssey, the game opens up with options of difficulty levels and game settings. I chose Pathfinder for Exploration, easier combat, and normal stealth as I’m more geared towards exploring the open world and sneaking around my enemies versus that of a head-on battle. Just like Bayek, Alexios/Kassandra, and even Ezio before you, Eivor our protagonist encounters a deep personal tragedy, which propels their journey towards revenge. This level of difficulty customization is always welcome, as you can choose to tailor your experience to your needs.

Compared to the two most recent games, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla had the most compelling prologue. The game gives you a real close personal look at Eivor’s backstory, giving just enough time to paint a picture of what their childhood life was like before the aforementioned tragedy. Also, on point with Origins and Odyssey, the story starts off with a call to attention of the world’s mystical thread and greater forces that are at play while our characters live their carefree lives about to be interrupted by the threads of fade.

Once again, I appreciate that like in Odyssey, we don’t delve into the Abstergo backstory too much from the get-go. Returning present day protagonist Layla Hassan appears briefly only to let the player know that Eivor’s gender is the most fluid of all the protagonists we’ve come to know. You can choose to be Male or Female Eivor, but I let Animus decide what Eivor’s gender identity would be and correlated it with my own, which resulted in a female presenting character who I’ve modified to lean towards having their gender identity being male.

The game throws you into the open world right away, presenting Eivor in a seemingly helpless state, about to be sold into slavery. It is similar in how in Skyrim, the protagonist has been saved from the executioner’s axe when Alduin attacks their captors, but Eivor is presented with more agency that they save themselves from their doom. It’s ironic that the island where you’re captured resembled Kephallonia on the map and now you have to gather your crew and return to your hometown.

The game already encourages you to explore said island presenting you with a Synchronization Point next to your spawning zone and then encouraging you to use your avian companion to be your eyes. Using the Pathfinder difficulty, the game does not handhold you at all compared to previous iterations of such systems and they don’t even present the estimated distance of travel. Playing enough open world games in this lifetime, it’s a breath of fresh air to experience something different. A player with less experience in that regard should go towards a more conventional route of having more heads-up-displays present.

Unlike Watch Dogs Legion, the controls took quite a bit getting used to. Valhalla has to ease you back into your Assassin’s Creed legs and re-educate you on the combat system from Odyssey, which you’ve probably already forgotten unless you’re fresh from that game. Otherwise, you could still traverse the maritimes with the same naval controls from Odyssey, and you can even call a mount right away. It’s like you’ve never left Odyssey at all. However, I wished the controls could’ve been simplified much further to make it more ergonomic and intuitive, noting the Odin’s Vision mechanic that could’ve been pressed rather than held.

Briefly noting some software hiccups, there were a ton of bugs all around. Clipping glitches and frame rate issues plagued the scenes. Combat was choppy and loading times took quite a bit. Some quests were buggy, froze, and characters that I was meant to follow stopped on their tracks and I couldn’t finish the quest. All of this was pre-day one patch, so various fixes should be live by the time the public dives into the game. They’re not totally gone, so expect the experience to get better as more patches come in.

On a separate playthrough after the day one patch, we had child Eivor instead of their grown-up counterpart running around in Rygjafylke as if the elves kept them forever childlike. While I was amused by these glitches, some players might find it distracting to see a whale flying across the ocean, and Eivor’s not even on Fly Agaric (more on that type of mushroom later).

As I continued with the story, one thing that I found was that the first region Rygjafylke is most definitely the topmost tip of the iceberg. The world the game is about to show you is vast, and if you thought that Odyssey was huge, oh my sweet Mediterranean child, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has so many sights to show you.

Streamlined Activity

The one point I noticed right away of worth is that exploration-wise, Valhalla has streamlined it to make it easier for newcomers to the game, but also makes it fresh for us veterans coming back for a third try. They break map progress down to three aspects: Wealth, Mysteries, and Artifacts.

Wealth is the accumulation of resources to help you acquire current equipment and upgrade their rarity. Major sources of wealth include Equipment and Ingots, which is the simplified loot system. The good news is, no more collection of useless equipment to break down into spare parts. I found that in the first twenty hours of Odyssey, I enjoyed picking up loot. By the time you hit hour forty, managing your inventory becomes a chore in itself and its own mini-game.

Bringing it back to the classic Assassin’s Creed system of a few choice equipment was a step in the right direction, but with the option of upgrading them to better quality items. Other sources of wealth include Raw Materials, Supplies, and Books of Knowledge, which we will discuss in detail soon. Each resource adds to your Wealth Bar by showing how many you have acquired from a region.

Mysteries break down all the activities you can partake in the game. World Event Side Quests are self-contained encounters in the game world where you could gain XP by aiding NPCs without it interfering with an ongoing quest. It’s seamless with the execution and you could continue to explore while pursuing it.

Minigames such as a rhythm drinking game, Orlog, a dice game that’s just as addicting as Gwent, and the infamous Flyting. It’s a rap battle minigame where you can build Charisma to unlock extra dialogue options.

Battle Challenges such as Lost Drengr and Legendary Animal Hunts await those who want to prove their mettle in combat. Save these challenges for later game as the power level requirement for them are quite high. However, even if you reach that power level, I’m sure they will offer up a challenge because as seen in the Artemis Hunts in Odyssey, they were quite epic.

Finally, Artifacts are the collectibles part of the game that used to just add flavor text and extra activities, but this time around they grant you cosmetic rewards such as chasing down Flying Papers for tattoo designs and Roman Artifacts to be traded at a museum. Also the open world staple Treasure Hoard Maps also make an appearance to acquire schematics for your longboat.

At first, I felt that it was an unnecessary activity, it actually rewards me for said activities instead of just needlessly chasing after flags and feathers. Yet as I continued to scour the game, not all artifacts are collectible, such as Cursed Symbols which you have to destroy to lift the effects from cursed areas.

You Got The Touch, You Got The Power!

Power Level is how you measure your, for the lack of a better term, power level. Every time you gain new skills, your power level increases and you’re introduced to a Sphere Grid reminiscent of Final Fantasy X. You could specialize towards a Stealth (Raven), Melee (Bear), or Ranged (Wolf) based skill tree, which are separated into nodes that increase a base stat and main skills that power-up a combat mechanic or an assassination ability.

Just like the Sphere Grid system, once you reach the edges of each pod, it branches out to an even wider array of stats, abilities, and benefits. You could say that if you go through the Stealth Skill Tree, you only get Assassination damage and stealth bonuses, but the skills are dispersed so that you get a rounded off character but with specialization in that branch.

Melee branches still have some stealth and ranged bonuses, but if you specialize just in that branch, you’ll have a brawnier character. Just the same with Ranged giving your character an edge with projectile weapons and you’re a better assassin if you go through Stealth. Don’t worry if you mess up in your skill build, you can respec it at any time.

For Active Skills known as Abilities, you need to collect specific Books of Knowledge hidden throughout the world that add to your Melee and Ranged capabilities that use up an Adrenaline Point. You can bind the skills on specific command slots the same way you did for Origins and Odyssey. For me, this part felt a bit redundant as they could’ve just streamlined it all under “Skills” and the Books mechanic could’ve still existed but used in a way to unlock an Active Skills or evolve a specific Active Skill already acquired.

Seeking out Cairns and Standing Stones (akin to Origins’ stargazing puzzle) add additional Skill Points to increase your power and XP could be earned by almost every relevant activity you participate in your journey. I’m not a fan of areas with level requirements as I like pursuing every corner of the world at my leisure, but each area is so chock-full of activities, I feel that they’ve mapped it out enough that you don’t feel over-leveled coming back to previous areas. Though, you could sneak through high level areas and steal some high level rewards, just make sure you don’t start a fight.

Not Evie Frye’s England

I would have stayed in the Norway Prologue for another six to eight hours as there was so much to explore, so many mountains to climb, and so many more subquests to finish, but alas the story took me forward to England and thus my journey to Valhalla begins. After the first two hours, I assumed that Assassin’s Creed Valhalla could’ve been much of the same game as Origins and Odyssey were if I stayed in Norway doing mostly the same activities in the past games, but setting up my Settlement was a step towards a new frontier and it is arguably the biggest and best feature that Valhalla introduces.

Upon your entry in England, you’re tasked to build your settlement to aid in your Jarl’s conquest. The Settlement Building mechanics are akin to Dragon Age: Inquisition where constructing more buildings strengthens Eivor and your Raiding Party through the services provided by your settlement. That includes Smithing, Trading Post, Fishmonger, Hunting Lodge, Barracks, Stables, and Tattoo Artist to name a few. Much of the next seventy or so hours of you following Eivor’s journey is linked with the services built upon your little fief.

To grow your settlement, you need different forms of wealth such as Supplies and Raw Materials. Supplies like other resources could be collected in random treasure chests throughout the world. However, Raw Materials could only be collected through a successful raid as it requires another raider to force open both a cathedral door and a raw materials chest.

Raids are akin to attacking enemy bases such as monasteries where you lead the charge and summon your raiding party by blowing your horn. The best part of this feature is you don’t need to be actually raiding an area to call for one. If you need help with powerful enemies, call your crew and they will fight with you.

For those who loved the Naval Battles in Odyssey, Raids pretty much replaced that. I welcome that change because while I did enjoy building my warship, you could only use your crew during naval battles. Land missions became lopsided and infiltration missions tend to get prolonged and tiring. Having an army by your side could change that up a bit, so if you get tired of infiltration, you can start a raid and pillage that town with like-minded friends. Watch out though, because if you kill non-combatants, prepare to get desyncrhonized.

Building your Barracks allows you to manage your Raid Party and create your own Jomsviking lieutenant. While your personal Jomsviking doesn’t join your team, it’s a way to connect with other players of the game as they recruit said character and you earn their silver (as they earn yours by recruiting their Jomsviking). You can equip the lieutenant with gear that aren’t in use, maximizing your unused gear.

Once you build your settlement, you could take advantage of the diverse services your new allies have to offer. However, alongside your settlement renown, you need better friends with more power and influence and you could do that by pledging territories in your war room. Pledging would unlock area quests that opens up a new story thread for the game.

The difference between Territory Story Arcs and World Encounters is that the encounters are standalone subquests that end almost as fast as you found it, provided you complete the actual quest. Story Arcs are full-on sagas that span five chapters. Each chapter is relatively short and organically interlink with the world’s ecosystem. Once you complete said pledge and play your cards right and make sure you made the right story choices, you come back with a new ally and a new raid party member or two.

Speaking of equipment, I really enjoyed the crafting mechanic as it is an improvement over the equipment system in Origins and OdysseyIngots are crafting items that increase the rarity of your current piece of equipment. You start out with Carbon Ingots and it grows into a rarer grade such as Nickel and Tungsten the further you go. Upgrading your gear requires three of each and you’ll be kept busy collecting such a resource. Rarities, like in the older titles, still range from Common to Legendary, but they changed the nomenclature of such things, to keep it fresh. New eyes wouldn’t notice it, but I rolled my eyes when I realized what it was.

Resources have now been simplified to Iron Ore, Leather, Fabric and Titanium. They are used to upgrade your equipment for stats and also your containers: Quivers for Arrows and Rations for health items. Merchants will sell you these raw materials and basic equipment. They will also buy miscellaneous loot for Silver, the currency of the game that you use to wager on Flyt Battles and Drinking Games. Other items and services bought for silver: Horses and Training said horses from a Stable, and recruiting Jomsvikings.

Other pieces of loot and trade items could be delivered to your Hunting Lodge and Fishmonger. With that, they could reward you with silver and Runes, which you could slot into your weapons and armor.

By hunting Legendary Animals, you can earn a trophy for your quarters by taking said animal carcass to the Hunting Lodge.

What the game doesn’t lack is content and I’m sure as you explore England, you’ll find many twists and turns and fantastic surprises to your adventure. I’m just glad that many mechanics of the game are simplified to break tedium besides just adding more activities to distract you from said tedium. I feel that such overwhelm causes open world fatigue and I’m glad that the new features cut through that quite a bit.

My favorite addition is the Orlog mini-game. While in Gwent from The Witcher 3, you don’t really earn anything else by collecting the cards, you could still benefit from the gold wagered. Orlog mainly is played for the sake of the game, and believe me once you’ve tried it, you’ll be hooked. Watch out for my Newbie Guide for it coming soon!

Reclaiming Assassin’s Creed‘s Creed

One thing that I found missing from the Odyssey saga was the lack of reference to the Assassin Order. Origins touched on it quite a bit, but in Odyssey it felt like it was removed altogether. While I was open to the change, my biggest criticism of the game was it deviated from the lore established from the previous games to become a generic open world adventure in its later parts. If Layla Hassan didn’t make an appearance, I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between Odyssey and The Witcher 3.

Speaking of Layla, she could break from her Animus slumber and solve an Animus Anomaly puzzle in the world, which hearkens back to the memory fragment puzzle dungeon back in Revelations. I enjoyed the easter egg as well as a low dose of that past challenge. The difference is, it takes a few minutes to solve versus a thirty minute commitment back in Revelations.

What Valhalla did that stood out was they implemented the right amount of old school lore without it taking away from what the Antiquities saga have built in the last two games. It gives credit to how the game made a name for itself in the first place, but does not throw away the advances made by Odyssey and Origins. After seeing its execution on how they’ve married Odyssey’s system and lore with the original Assassin’s Creed mechanic, I welcomed this synergy.

If you’ve been following trailers and announcements for this game, it’s no secret that Eivor will receive the Hidden Blade missing in Odyssey (replaced by the Spear of Leonidas). While it came with all the benefits enjoyed by Ezio, Edward, and Evie alike, I liked that they nerfed it quite a bit. The moment you break from stealth a little, you could not just assassinate everyone in your vicinity. They’ve added quite a bit of specialized enemies who are impervious to your cheap tricks.

I appreciated that they brought back the stealth mechanics from the early game. What I enjoyed playing as Altair and Ezio was rifling through the crowd before emerging for the well calculated kill. Areas are now divided into Distrust and Restricted Zones. Distrust zones are a great variety from the standard restricted zones as you could utilize those mechanics to blend in with the crowd and get to your target faster. Yet, remember that you’re also a Raider, so if the going gets tough, blow that horn and burn that shire to the ground!

I like that you’re not penalized for breaking stealth or being forced into an infiltration mission for more rewards. While attempting perfect stealth is cool, the novelty has always worn off pretty fast and I’m glad that Valhalla recognized that. The game adapts to your level of play and I feel that makes it accessible to all kinds of players. Because even if you learn cool assassin rites you could still raid and fight head-on without being punished for it. You also don’t get punished for chasing after cats to pet them.

Combat has evolved in Valhalla as I did mention that elite enemies learn how to get around your cheap tricks. Though, to level the playing field, it’s a good idea to attack their weak points with a bow and chip away at their defense meter. Reducing it to zero will stun them giving you a window to instant kill with a Deathblow. The same strategy could be used for Lost Drengr and Legendary Animals, so it adds variety to the many ways to dispatch your adversaries.

To expand on Eivor’s spiritual journey, you could visit several altars in the game that ask for an offering, the one I found near Grantebridgeschire requires ten bull horns. You think I’m made of bull horns?! I can’t even get antlers to complete that random hunting request back in Norway!

Fly Agaric mysteries require you to solve hallucination challenges unlocked by a certain type of mushroom found in the wild. I actually found them by accident looking for edible mushrooms to fill my ration meter, apparently these ones get you lit.

Finally, without spoiling too much of the cooler surprises Valhalla has in store, do yourself a favor and get your settlement to Level 3. Build a Seer’s Hut and take a particular kind of potion. If you think the trip unlocked by Fly Agaric is intense? Wait until you see how deep into your psyche such an elixir would take you.

By combining what worked with the original Assassin’s Creed and the Antiquities Trilogy, Valhalla really stepped up in providing quite a fresh experience. It’s what the franchise has been missing. Sure, we get the same game with the same mechanics that we enjoy. However, personally I felt that it lacked that X-Factor present in Final Fantasy and what Nintendo fans see in their games. It’s that confidence to knowing that you will get the exact same game but with enough surprises to elevate your experience.

For The Veteran Explorer

The curse of the completionist is that we’re hardwired to collect everything before moving on from a spot. If I wasn’t dealing with a review deadline for this game, I would still be in Norway scouring the region for every ounce of wealth, mystery, artifact and whatnot so I could be satisfied that I’ve completed this region thoroughly. The Pathfinder Difficulty is a blessing in disguise because with the game not prompting you to commit to ALL the activities in your current play area. The map gradually reveals itself as I arrive at said area, which is a good thing for us completionists, because when the game says fetch, we run after it like a dog in heat.

For those cursed with the same quirk, I urge you to use the Pathfinder Difficulty to help you resist that compulsion. Of course there are some downsides to this difficulty: during investigative missions, clues aren’t automatically logged into your map and you would have to mark them manually. At my leisure, that would’ve been the perfect challenge as I like scouring the world for the smallest item. Little things like that brings me a lot of joy, it’s probably why I loved The Sinking City so much.

I also find that on several islands, terrain is straightforward and you could get to your immediate destination within moments compared to Watch Dogs: Legion where walking down a few blocks takes up a lot of your time. It reduces my use of Fast Travel, which I don’t like very much because it kills momentum from your exploration with its extended loading times. I could always ride back on my mount or longship down the River Trent with a dope soundtrack by your bard. Odyssey’s singing sailors got on my nerves after they sang that Keroberos song the 80th time. Your longship’s bard switches from their speorg notes to storytelling. If he can sing Volcano Man or some ABBA, it’d be perfect.

Unlike the previous games with endless radiant quests, the game intrinsically lets me know what I earn for that said activity, it’s not just an activity for activity’s sake. It ultimately reduces open world fatigue and allows me to enjoy the world instead of it just one becoming one big to-do list. Playtime will vary, of course, as is the case with these types of games, but expect upwards of at least 45 / 50 hours. It’s a massive game!

Screw that, I’m gonna catch some fireflies and release them over rivers and climb the highest mountain to get the best panoramic view mode for my best selfie for Photo Mode. Take that open world fatigue! You’re not the boss of me!

What We Liked:

  • Keeping the genre fresh by synergizing the best mechanics of the OG Assassin’s Creed and the Antiquities Saga.
  • Improved crafting mechanics does away with the tedium of repetitive collecting and dismantling of loot.
  • Pathfinder Difficulty subverts the open world expectation by allowing the map to open up gradually.
  • Settlement mechanic streamlines all activities into a well managed home base where all your hard work is up for display.
  • The story is up there with the Ezio Auditore saga and with the introduction of Location Arcs and World Encounters, it blends exploration and storytelling into an organic ecosystem.

What We Didn’t Like

  • While the Skill Tree additions are a nice touch, it could’ve been better simplified by streamlining Abilities into the same category.
  • It takes some time to ease into the controls.
  • Load times for fast travel could take a while, but could be different on next-gen consoles.
  • Various glitches and bugs, which includes clipping, camera angle mishaps, and interrupted quests that will take some patches to sort out.

Verdict: Buy It!

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is an excellent revision of the open world title from a franchise that is constantly seeking to revitalize itself. I feel that it is a step in the right direction for the IP and I believe that if they follow through with the changes that they’ve implemented moving forward, they can take steps in the direction that Final Fantasy VII Remake has done to elevate their genre but keep enough of the familiarity and charm that made Assassin’s Creed a widely popular title.

If you’re on the fence with Valhalla because of the notion that the Assassin’s Creed franchise is a copy-paste job from previous iterations, you’re not wrong, because I also came in with that bias before reviewing this game. However, color me surprised with what Valhalla has achieved and I actually enjoyed this game far more than I thought I would. It brought back some of that goodwill lost after Assassin’s Creed 2 Brotherhood and rekindled a bit of that excitement from Ezio Auditore’s era. While it will not bring back my original passion for this IP, at the very least, it has reconciled my hang-ups.

I commend the developers for streamlining tedious activities that plague this genre lessening the pressure to complete every activity and pushing back against open world fatigue. I could see the effort to bypass this by obviously learning and improving on their competitor’s games. The biggest achievement on why this is the most polished out of the Antiquities trilogy of Assassin’s Creed games is that they have reclaimed the franchise’s identity and how they’ve masterfully executed fresh ideas to create a perfect blend of old and new.

*Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla was reviewed on a PS4 Pro via a review code provided by the publishers.

The OMG Review
Our review format is not your usual fare and we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings!

“Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above.

“Wait for it…” means that the game probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point, we suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10.

“Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future, unless you want to intentionally hurt yourself. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: November 12, 2020
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
  • Genre: Action adventure
  • Similar Games: Spider-Man, Batman Arkham Series
  • Price: Starts at PHP2,490

I really, really, REALLY wanted to experience Spider-Man: Miles Morales on a PlayStation 5 as it is one of the titles in the launch lineup that drew my interest, with Demon’s Souls being the other one. As I checked my inbox, I was shocked to see that the review copy came in, which snapped me back to reality that it was coming out on the PlayStation 4 as well. I was nervous at first, because I only had so much time to actually play, finish, and write up the review for it. I booted up the game, drink in one hand and controller on the other, and soaked it all in.

Much of the arguments around Spider-Man: Miles Morales is that of being just the same Spider-Man 2018 game, only with a different character. They’re not wrong. At a glance, it is a reskin and if that turns you off, I wouldn’t blame you. I was thinking pretty much the same thing while I was playing – “Huh, it’s basically just Spider-Man.” and I almost didn’t give Miles a chance.

At the end of the day, as the credits rolled, I’m glad I gave the game a chance to pull me in, because when it did, it never let me go. If anything, playing Spider-Man: Miles Morales on the PlayStation 4 only got me more excited at the prospect of a better and more immersive experience on the PlayStation 5, and that really made my spidey-sense tingle.

If you’ve played the 2018 title, there will be a lot of things that will be very familiar to you. All things considered, Spider-Man was a fantastic game, so more of that is definitely good. For real though, weren’t we all expecting something similar from the very first time the game was announced?

That said, let’s jump in.

One year later…

Spider-Man: Miles Morales takes place one year after the 2018 game, and if you’re like me who has totally forgotten about what happened 2 years ago, there’s a handy recap movie that can be played to get you up to speed. Because of this, Miles Morales is something you can definitely immerse yourself in without having played the previous title, but there are references and cameos here and there that will indeed add to the enjoyment factor.

Real talk, why haven’t you played the 2018 game yet? Anyways…

Yep, that’s the “new” Peter Parker.

Miles gets caught up in this mess between Roxxon Energy Corporation and a group of heavily armed thugs who call themselves “The Underground”. The story revolves around this premise and it is through this that Miles discovers a deeper plan that calls on him to be the hero that he was meant to be.

In all of my reviews, I never go into discussing story details because I don’t like spoiling things for anyone and I want the players to experience the game the same way I did. Don’t expect things to change here, we’ll talk about everything else except that.

So, what’s new?

Story aside, Spider-Man: Miles Morales shines the spotlight on a whole new cast of characters. You have Miles (of course), Ganke (Miles’ best friend), and Rio (Miles’ mom) among others. Rhino makes a comeback, and even Peter Parker makes an appearance to provide Miles with some guidance as he goes all in on this superhero business.

Performances from each member of the cast is fantastic, from the naivete of Miles to the warm-hearted and motherly Rio, the game excels in making the audience feel connected to the characters. There was hardly any instances of writing that made me cringe, and the storytelling was very engaging. Coming from someone who is not as familiar with Miles Morales compared to other Marvel superheroes, I did not have a hard time understanding and relating to the characters, which is a testament to great storytelling by Insomniac.

Yo I thought they were gonna do that kiss.

Taking cues from the first game, Spider-Man: Miles Morales streamlines a lot of the features and mechanics that make it much more concise, even at the expense of game length. There are far fewer suits in this game compared to the first, there are fewer gadgets, around the same number of skills and three skill trees… you get the drift. Side missions are back, crimes are back, and if you remember all those collectibles and tokens from the first game that allow you to upgrade or unlock new things, they’re back too, just in a different shape or form.

There are a few new mechanics that have been added as a function of Miles having different powers from Peter Parker. Some puzzles in the game will take advantage of this, like using a tether web that conducts electricity to power up a generator, but they happen just a handful of times during the whole story. Level design isn’t vastly improved from the first game, and puzzles aren’t hard to do at all, which may leave something to be desired for players looking for a challenge on that aspect.

Combat is mostly the same, which is a good thing because Spider-Man 2018 had very fluid and responsive mechanics and controls. This time around, miles packs some power behind his moves, and has a new arsenal that revolves around his ability to conduct electricity and turn himself invisible. Miles can easily clear mobs of enemies as his Venom attacks cover an area, translating to faster and more visually appealing but sometimes easier fights.

While this is the case, combat eventually falls into the same problems as the first game, where you just pull off the same move over and over again to win the fight. I didn’t mind, I like boring. My old hands can barely stretch themselves out to attempt any of those acrobatic showcases, but it might be something gamers would consider. I’m sure some combat highlight reels will begin popping up on Youtube within the first few days of release, but definitely I preferred sneaking my way around thugs and popping them with stealth takedowns.

Admiring his handiwork.

There are also fewer enemy types in this game, which boils down to melee, ranged / firearms, sword, brutes, and shields. No more sable agents, no more jetpack dudes, thank goodness. You’ll still need to employ different tactics per enemy type and while I do appreciate the various enemies, there wasn’t enough of the shielded variety to really make me change up my tactics over the course of the game. For about 90% of the time, I would launch an enemy, do an air-combo, switch to another one, perform a finisher on the brute, switch to another one, repeat. It’s effective, it’s boring, it gets the job done, but again it speaks to the enemy variety, which doesn’t keep you on your toes as much as the first game did.

Built for the next-gen

Now that I’ve gotten my gripes out of the way, let’s shift gears.

First off, I believe that the game really was made and designed for the PS5 and just downscaled to cater to the millions of PS4 players that wouldn’t adopt a PS5 on day one.

Loading times in the game are very minimal. During a regular gaming session, and if i’m not mistaken, you’ll only see a loading screen twice or thrice – first after you load the game from your save file, second when using fast travel, and third if and when you die. The game seems to be optimized very well, and the loading times aren’t that long either. In one instance, fast travel took around 15 seconds give or take, which will most probably be cut down to maybe 2 seconds or so on the PS5. Entering a “dungeon” and leaving also had no loading times, ensuring you transition in and out of the free-roam experience faster.

The game runs smoothly, maybe even smoother than the first game. Frame rate dips, if any, were very minimal. It ain’t 60fps, that’s reserved for the PS5, but the present gameplay experience is still very pleasant. The visuals seem to have been improved also, featuring a lot of shinier textures and surfaces, especially on Miles’ default suit and during cinematic sequences

Obviously no Ray Tracing yet.

One thing that is radically different from the 2018 game is the soundtrack and Miles Morales is all the more better for it. Spider-Man had a lot of the more heroic sounding bgm, something very similar to the Avengers orchestra arrangements from the MCU. Miles Morales takes a different turn and drops the beats, going full R&B hip hop especially during combat sequences. It’s refreshing and is a joy to play with as it really sets the tone for who Miles is. Miles is young and energetic (in more ways than one), and the music captures his personality perfectly.

Attention to detail

Speaking of capturing things perfectly, just last week it was revealed that the “Into the Spider-Verse” suit will be making an appearance in the game and props to Insomniac for pulling such a feat with amazing attention to detail. As you equip the suit, you’ll notice quite a few things – your physique changes to reflect the art from the movie, your attacks have comic-book POW effects (you can choose to disable this), and even move based on the 12fps style from the animated movie (you can also choose to disable this).

spider-man miles morales spiderverse suit
Yes you can pet the cat.

As you swing through the city streets of Harlem, you might notice Miles botch his swing animation at times. Remember, Miles is new to this superhero thing, so he isn’t as experienced as Peter is, and even that is portrayed by the way he talks and acts throughout the duration of the game.

Speaking to his inexperience, you’ll also see Miles fumble a lot of the things and decisions that you know Peter Parker would have done differently. You’ll see this throughout the story, and you’ll find that it really is part of the charm that Miles Morales brings into the game.

His own hero

It took me a while to warm up to Miles Morales. I was struggling to get past the “This is just the same game” idea out of my head. I kept comparing it to the original and I think almost everyone will do that at some point, I won’t blame you for it. There was a certain mission that really flipped my perspective, finally selling me on Miles Morales as his own character.

From here, the game does not let go of its grip on you. Throughout my 10 hour playthrough of the campaign, which some may finish faster or slower depending on how they play, I was deeply engrossed and invested in the story and its characters. Even though the villains here aren’t as big ticket as the sinister six, the game still finds a way to reel you in because of how relatable Miles and the rest of the cast are.

Yes, the Spider-Cat suit is real.

10 hours does sound a bit short compared to the first game, which averages around 15-20 hours for the main campaign, but the pacing here in Miles Morales felt good and felt right. Nothing feels forced, and while some of the characters in the game could use a bit more screen time and exposition, the main cast did not suffer from the same shortcoming.

More than the gameplay, Miles Morales really relies heavily on its storytelling and succeeds in that front, telling an emotional tale full of heart that is not hard to appreciate. I had finished the game feeling satisfied and although short, it does leave the door open for more adventures in the future.

What we liked:

  • Surprisingly emotional story
  • Amazing attention to detail
  • Minimal loading screens
  • Fantastic soundtrack
  • Sets a good benchmark for the incoming PS5 experience

What we didn’t like:

  • Short campaign
  • Enemy variety could be improved
  • Not playing it on the PS5

Verdict: Buy it!

Spider-Man: Miles Morales successfully steps out of the shadow of the 2018 title and establishes itself as a game that can stand on its own. It has a great cast and engrossing story paired with superb gameplay that a lot of similar games in the same genre fail to capture. Although the campaign is a bit on the short side, there are a lot of side activities that will easily push your playing time upwards of 15-20 hours.

If you loved Spider-Man, then Miles Morales is definitely a must add to your library. Even if you aren’t a fan, the game is built on solid foundations that make up for a more than serviceable action adventure title.

After playing the game, I have a deeper appreciation for Miles and the rest of the cast, something that I can’t say for a lot of the other games out there. I will neither confirm or deny that I may have shed a tear during a certain portion of the game, which was highly unexpected but totally welcome.

I would highly recommend that you wait to play this on the PS5 if you are getting one sometime soon because I feel that the full breadth of the experience can really be unlocked using the new hardware. That being the case, it’s not hard to recommend the PS4 version if you don’t care so much about higher frames and ray tracing. Wherever you choose to play it, Miles Morales is a great way to get yourself introduced to the series.

*Spider-Man: Miles Morales was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 Pro via a review code provided by the publisher.

The OMG Review
Our review format is not your usual fare and we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings!

“Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above.

“Wait for it…” means that the game probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point, we suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10.

“Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future, unless you want to intentionally hurt yourself. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: October 29, 2020
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One ,PC
  • Genre: Open World Adventure
  • Similar Games: Watch Dogs 1 and 2, Grand Theft Auto V
  • Price: Starts at PHP2,495

I feel that most of Ubisoft worlds intersect with the same theme and subject matter, and the Watch Dogs franchise is no exception. However, in terms of standing out, the last two games have blended into the background having a lot similarities with other games in its genre like Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row.

From a non-player looking in, Watch Dogs seemingly lacks the core identity their flagship games have built over the years like Assassin’s Creed and The Division. Watch Dogs: Legion seeks to set itself apart from the other properties with its single minded proposition where you could be anyone and everyone, a direct reference to the hacktivist group Anonymous.

London is the stage where the story has been set and hacktivist group Dedsec intercepts a signal threatening an attack on the Parliament Building. Events go sideways and Dedsec has been branded a terrorist organization and the now fractured collective desperately seeks out the help of any of their available operatives. That is where you come along: to help rebuild this underground organization from the ashes of their former self while dodging local gangs and the new security corporation – Albion – who has turned London into a police state. All the while, the elusive hacker organization Zero Day who set all these events into motion, watches from the shadows, their next move a mystery…

The Hero is YOU… and Everyone Else.

At first I felt that Watch Dogs: Legion tries to pander to our kind of Millennial/Gen Z archetype who peruses the gig economy to make a living. When selecting your first operative, the selection of people are diverse and can range throughout a multicultural set of individuals with different disciplines and backgrounds. It was quite a nice touch to note that my choice of operatives here were different from my colleague.

I selected Dave Cooper, an IT specialist for better tech proficiency over an ex-military grunt or a novelist who has a background in cryptocurrency (because why do I want to play as myself, I already live it).

You eventually make it to your safe house where you get training on how to traverse this brave new world. I actually appreciated how they made this tutorial mission fresh as I usually get bored with this part of the game as we’ve come across this trope on this genre way too many times to count.

Rewards have been divided into the crypto ETO, which we use to purchase gear for each of our operative’s wardrobe. The other currency are Tech Points, in which we could purchase new gadgets or upgrade our existing ones to help us take on surveillance drones and recruit better operatives, even the ones who have a low opinion of Dedsec. We start off with an infiltrator spider-bot that helps with remote hacking and AP Cloak that makes you invisible for 20 seconds. Each up-gradable tech is divided into three levels, each one with their unique component to boost you up for the long haul. Finally Masks are another cool cosmetic collectible to add your endless collection. They protect your identity while keeping you either stylish or comedic.

While it feels like our chap Dave Cooper will be our sole eyes and ears for the rest of our Watch Dogs: Legion journey, as soon as you get out of the safe house, you’re able to recruit potential Dedsec operatives at Connie’s Pub. I recruited a former car thief who wanted me to steal a car they’ve been arrested boosting and drive it into the River Thames. It became a two for one deal as once I completed his mission, I ended up recruiting his best friend as well.

Each operative has their unique skill, perks, and also drawbacks. My initial operative is great with hacking, but merely average with fighting. One of my new recruits has a gambling problem, so while he sometimes wins some ETO for me, I lose out just as much. The good news is that you have the ability to retire every operative including your very first recruit. (Sorry, Dave) I eventually dismissed the gambler to stop the uncertain gain and loss of ETO. Other operatives come with their unique load outs, with one of my starter recruits owned a silenced P9 while another packed their own shock rifle. Other drawbacks include quirks that call attention to them losing out on stealth, increased jail times if caught, permadeath for some of our unlucky operatives, and our personal favorite… some of them just randomly die on the spot. Nobody shot them, nobody ran them over, Light Yagami just wrote their name on the Death Note and then gone.

Recruitment Missions begin as soon as you hear a potential operative’s story. They can range from escort missions, to hacking missions, to survival missions. After a dozen or so missions, the novelty wears off and they become for a lack of a better term, radiant quests. For some operatives, the missions are worth it as I’ve recruited better fighters with more combat training thus I can survive an ambush far more efficiently. For most recruits, it is best to check on their status and see if they’re worth pursuing. You can lose recruits by failing a mission as well. Lost recruits could not be reclaimed again, so if you have a recruit you’ve set your eyes on, don’t fail that mission. However, if you do, accept their fate and move on as you have the whole of London to rally to your cause. As you progress through the game, you get higher tier operatives with more unique weapons, abilities, and personal drones & vehicles to change up your play style and try out new strategies.

As virtually almost every single citizen in London is up for grabs, the ecosystem is set up that these same NPCs that you randomly attack or run over with your bad driving can leave a lasting consequence on their perception of Dedsec. I have a potential recruit who I knocked out to download information on some medical files for another mission. It turns out that they have access to medical facilities that Dedsec could use. I eventually utilized Deep Profile so I could recruit said operative by doing them an extra favor / mission through the use of information from their stolen data. That tactic also works for potential recruits who already have a low opinion of Dedsec to begin with.

watch dogs: legion deep profile

This has become my favorite part of the game because of how every bystander in the game could potentially become part of the main story. For the longest time, bystanders in open world games were merely walking liabilities who slow down your progress when they become collateral damage. Now every citizen is a potential recruit or a future enemy. It’s a fun dynamic that actually sets it apart from the typical open world game using the same tired system of completing quests and finishing side missions with the same generic protagonist auto-generated by the same game devs. I don’t know about you, but I often wonder about the faceless majority that populate any given open world game. Why does the chosen one douchebag get to have all the fun?

Hacking Is Your Weapon

Just like the previous games, the main draw of the combat system has been the hacking capability. You still are able to use physical combat in the game with melee fighting if you’re caught trying to infiltrate and every character is equipped with a shock pistol to fend off enemies. Some operatives as mentioned above are packing better heat than the conventional Dedsec load out, but your main weapon is using the tech in your fingertips to produce the best results.

The environment around you can be manipulated to trap enemies such as control panels could be rigged to detonate or send out an electric shock to neutralize enemies. Security cameras and even their own phones can be used to distract targets while you quickly do a take down or lead them away from your position. Even parked cars can be hacked to become a weapon, crushing clueless guards not knowing that their security has been breached. Your play style is up to you whether you wish to be lethal or a pacifist, it’s not Dishonored where there are permanent drawbacks for killing enemies. Take note that your operative can also be arrested and taken out of the board if you don’t play your cards right. 

I prefer the stealth missions versus the actual combat because of what you can accomplish with hacking. You could plan your entry and escape by hijacking CCTVs around the enemy compound, learn enemy position, remotely download security keys for access, and have a cargo drone waiting at a convenient place for your quick getaway. It’s quite fun to figure out the safe zones on the fly and avoid combat altogether because they can get time consuming and not all your operatives are trained serial killers like in most games. Sometimes you can even do entire missions without being in the same room as the objective by using every hijack-able tool in your vicinity. There was a mission where I had to destroy a vehicle serving as a weapons cache at a Clan Kelley base, which was conveniently located underneath a mall. All I had to do was hack into a surveillance camera and trigger a remote explosion next to said vehicle. Nobody even knew I was technically in the same location.

While the hacking component as well potentially recruiting everyone in London gives you unbridled power, don’t underestimate what Albion, SIRS or Clan Kelley could throw at you. Combat Drones are especially annoying as they attract enemies on your path while and pack firepower that can easily neutralize your operatives where they stand. Turrets are also just as deadly as while they lack the mobility of a drone, their sheer firepower can turn your ambitious hacktivist into ground beef. Human enemies also present their own challenges as by themselves they can easily be neutralized but as a swarm, they can quickly overwhelm you with melee damage and could further escalate into using their firearm.

Combat and hacking controls are ubiquitous, they’re built into your regular exploration controls. While a skilled Black Hat could cause major damage a block away, manipulating the enemy’s tech against them; a skilled Spy or Hitman could infiltrate an enemy space and wipe enemies out with brawn alone. The real challenge is when your enemy comes at your operative’s weakness. In the case of our starter chap, Dave Cooper, he doesn’t have much combat skills so it’s easy for him to get taken out by an Albion grunt or one of Clan Kelley. While my fighters can hold themselves during survival missions, since hacking isn’t their forte, they could get taken out by an unplanned drone ambush or a hidden turret. Since you can’t change operatives in restricted areas, plan your missions accordingly.

Jolly Old London

Riding a vehicle around London is seamless between each borough, which makes it easy to access missions that seem to be far off from each other. As I’ve noticed, everything in London is separated by at least a kilometer away and some recruitment missions really ask you to go across town to save a friend or to hijack an AI replacement. I’ve played a plethora of open world games that utilized horse mechanics, so returning to automobiles was quite a bit of a challenge. Even more so that we have to drive on the left hand side of the road. The good news is that you can use your tech to forcibly move the self-driving cars to the side with your hack ability while you get the whole of the road to yourself.

There’s plethora of vehicles to choose from and some of your operatives own their personal carriage. However if there’s one lesson that Grand Theft Auto taught us, why own when you can steal? Out of the myriad of sports cars, utility vehicles, and heavy duty rigs that you can “borrow”, service machines like the Albion cruiser or an ambulance give you the ability to switch on your sirens and cars will make room for you. Motorbikes are the closest you could get to a horse but unlike in Red Dead Redemption, Assassin’s Creed, or Ghost of Tsushima, when you crash the bike only you get hurt. Motorboats are a great way to traverse River Thames and access hidden Albion bases. Spies own their personal spy car that can cloak and be in the same spot as you when you activate said operative. It’s probably the only personal vehicle that’s convenient to have because of the cool toys built into it.

What I hated was the fact that character movement depends on the physicality of your operative and there are times where your character can run for hours on end or you could have a grandma with mobility issues. There are times where I was hoping for a horse to negotiate through the crowded alleyways as ramming a Prius into the boardwalk is more trouble than it’s worth. To move faster, a vehicle is almost a necessity even within 100-200 meters away from your destination. While realistically, it makes the travel time more believable, the novelty wears off almost immediately when you just want to get to your next mission without spending five minutes actually getting there, like in real life. Exploration missions force the characters to walk and the sluggish pace really slows down the game’s momentum that sometimes I’d rather use a drone or a spider-bot to get it over and done with.

Unlike other open worlds of the same genre, there is no level requirement to explore much of London. What I hated about The Division was that certain areas have level requirements before even pursuing unless you welcome the absolute certainty of instant death and lost loot. Operatives are differentiated depending on their unique skill set. No grinding is required and if you need a specific skill, all you need to do is find an asset, do them a favor, and then activate them. It is in a way a different type of grind, but it’s not a run-of-the-mill numerical one. Also you can always save a potential recruit into your team archive and reach out to them when in need of their specific skill.

The mini-map is akin to searching for a specific store in a mall with Google Maps. They’re accurate enough but guesswork is still required on what exact floor they’re in. I appreciate that we have so few collectibles in this game that it’s almost not a necessity to grab them. The spider-bot is your friend for collecting items in hard to reach areas. I like that the fast travel points (outlined by The Tube stations)  are revealed gradually when you peruse the map instead of actually physically traveling there to access. It solves quite a lot of the movement speed issues I have with the game and it also deters me from my bad driving.

watch dogs: legion map

Completing challenges is a great way of unlocking more experienced recruits as well as extra missions to expand on the game’s story. They range from disrupting propaganda, digital deface, neutralizing VIPs, photographing evidence, just to name a few. While completionists would get onto these activities, I appreciate that you are rewarded with extra content for allowing a borough to become defiant.

Speaking of missions, unless you’re dealing with a time sensitive event, you can complete any challenge near an ongoing mission before tackling your mission event. This way, it allows you to stack multiple activities at once without consequence. It’s a great component with a large map and varying character movement speeds, mission planning is almost a must at many points to save on game time stolen by load screens.

While you have your main & side missions, borough challenges, and recruitment missions; there’s a gamut of activity to be done for extra ETO while inciting dissent such as Paste-Ups, Kickball mini-games as well as doing timed deliveries for Parcel Fox. If Sam Porter Bridges thinks he has a monopoly on being a courier, you can become London’s own legendary porter delivering parcels and overpriced chicken tikka to your oppressed neighbors.

Fight The Power

The game starts off strong even for players such as myself who didn’t delve into the first two games. Unlike the Assassin’s Creed franchise where you could get lost with the entire Abstergo backstory, you don’t need any background on what Dedsec’s recent journey has been. The prologue felt like an episode of James Bond or Mission Impossible and sets the stage of the rest of the game. As I commented on the tutorial, there’s not a lot of boring down times. The walking time and some recruitment missions may slow down your progress a bit, but if you follow the flow of the game, the pacing is consistently quick and its missions brief.

While the game doesn’t just throw you into the world like in The Division 2‘s campaign, central characters like the intrepid Sabine Brandt and the wise-cracking AI program Bagley serve as anchors for its narrative. They are your early guides easing you into the world’s lore and don’t throw you into the deep end without proper training. That being said, it also gives you enough freedom to explore said world with minimal hand holding that doesn’t seem like it’s leaving you to sink or swim like in The Division 2. You could definitely start fresh without any reference to previous protagonist Marcus Holloway and his exploits.

Also, every operative does not feel like a generic grunt like in The Division, they have their own backstory and while their personalities and even voice tonality may intersect, there’s enough variety for every operative that they can each stand on their own. It gives a human voice when completing the main story allowing myself to build empathy to the cause unlike in open world games with silent protagonists where I only care about how much XP I’ll earn and the loot I’ll receive.

The individual missions are well designed and add to the construction of the world as a whole. The open world storytelling has desensitized me quite a bit and I’ve skipped many side quest cutscenes in recent memory because it always involves some form of fetch quest, escort mission, or delivery of some kind. While Watch Dogs: Legion did not attempt to reinvent the wheel, the game has come up with creative ways of integrating these missions with the lore of the world and your relationship with contemporary technology.

I underestimated Borough missions as a whole because it requires busy work to unlock and then I assumed I’ll undergo another generic fetch mission. However, I was genuinely surprised with the slick level design incorporated in these quests. One quest called for a spider-bot to climb the Westminster Tower in order to generate a widespread disruption of Albion propaganda being projected from its apex. While in what is reminiscent of a “temple exploration quest”, you explore a decommissioned power plant with only a news drone to help you negotiate the pitch black landscape in order to free kidnapped activists.

The early main story missions got me quite intrigued because I expected an exposition dump as the mission calls for an investigation of the mystery of Dedsec’s downfall. I commend the scenario designers of hiding heavy exposition within a uniquely designed investigation quest where you infiltrate said compound while reconstructing past events with AR tech. Games of late have been abusing the flashback narrative tool to tell the story, but instead of making it interesting, they become a twenty minute info-dump with terrible dialogue. Using the tech to tell a story as well as looping in other operatives into the adventure is a great way to integrate all the moving parts into one coherent narrative flow. If only early missions in open world games could be more engaging like this, it would prevent me from leaving them for last as I exhaust the open world for all the extras leaving me with no motivation to continue the main narrative.

As I progressed through the game, I’ve and built up a diverse roster of recruits, ranging from the main hacker operative to the muscle that can withstand an ambush from either Albion or Clan Kelley. Just like in Suikoden, I have operatives that are there for passive functions like reducing arrest time and injury duration for downed operatives. I even have operatives that provide clothes discounts. For fun, I recruited a hypnotist grandma, because everybody should have a hypnotist grandma in their task force. I’m currently sending a septuagenarian MMA enthusiast granny to all the underground fist fighting tournaments, because we can’t let Heihachi Mishima be the only septuagenarian (or at this stage octogenarian) to be the King of the Iron Fist Tournament.

With a diverse cast like the motley crew I’ve assembled, there are many dynamic ways you could go about completing missions utilizing the skill sets of your team. Though there could’ve been more variety of operatives from the skill combinations that I’ve run across because securing a crew of two to three operatives is enough to get you through most missions. Hackers are quite imbalanced and will mostly run the show, you would only need to round your crew off with operatives with specific uniformed access such as an undercover Clan Kelley enforcer or an Albion contractor. I feel that there should be a patch or a difficulty option that puts a limit on operative usage, such as an operative should not be available during some parts of the day because of the responsibilities of their alter-ego. That would encourage the player to establish a healthy rotation within their roster. Combined with a repetitive recruitment mechanic, there will come a point in your thirty to forty hour mark that the novelty will completely wear off and the process will become a chore. I’m not gonna lie though, it’s quite fun just being an all-powerful hacker. You can assert your dominance as a modern day sorcerer by abusing all the tech in the vicinity to make everyone bend to your will.

I’ll end this review with a comment on the load times. In my total run of this campaign which will vary depending on how you play but we can safely say that it’ll take around 25 hours give and take, 20% of that time involved a loading screen of some kind. The worst is when a load screen pops up when you’re switching between your operatives and fast traveling, which you will do A LOT given that London is a huge place, people drive on the wrong side of the road, and your bench has the potential to get deep as the eventual missions call for specific skill sets. This hopefully might change for the next gen, because these load screens add up and they get annoying real fast.

What We Liked:

  • Fresh take on the open world genre with creative mission designs subverting expectations.
  • Recruitment missions and maximizing the existence of every NPC in the game.
  • Hacking components seamlessly blend with combat and environment.
  • Open world allows full exploration of London without a level requirement.
  • No need to play previous Watch Dogs games to enjoy.

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Load Times, but could be different on a Next Gen Platform
  • Moving 100 meters in-game by foot feels like 100 meters in real life.
  • Recruitment missions after the first dozen become glorified radiant quests.
  • Late game mechanics eventually default to repetitive usage of the same three main operatives; creating a feeling of tedium and under utilization of other members of the team.

Verdict: Buy It!

Watch Dogs has come a long way in establishing their brand and I feel that the open world of the game seems fresh for this type of genre. The main fact that every NPC gets to be part of the main party feels original. In a market saturated with the same open world game, it was nice to get a taste of something new.

Raise your hand if you’re tired of the chosen one story. While at first it seemed pandering, it’s a breath of fresh air that every average schmoe has the agency to fight for their home and that they don’t have to rely on some privileged self-important hero to save the day. As they say in game, Am so soddin’ sick o’ that tried an’ tested smeg it makes me go aggy; makes ye wish fo’ somethin’ new, innit?

I expected to hate this game from the get go because it ticked off almost everything that annoys me in an open world game by definition. However, upon playing the game, I pretty much realized I’ve judged the game by its franchise. Since I got an enjoyable experience out of it, this is one of those rare times where I’m happy to be proven wrong.

*Watch Dogs: Legion was reviewed on a PS4 Pro via a review code provided by the publishers.

The OMG Review
Our review format is not your usual fare and we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings!
“Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above.
“Wait for it…” means that the game probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point, we suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10.
“Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future, unless you want to intentionally hurt yourself. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.
Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: October 2, 2020
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One ,PC
  • Genre: Space Combat
  • Similar Games: Star Wars: X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter
  • Price: Starts at PHP1,795

When talking about Star Wars, one thing that immediately pops to mind would be the Force or Lightsabers, with some of the most recent titles revolving around these themes. While this is more often than not the case, we can never count out the vast array of war vehicles used by both the Empire and the Rebel Alliance like the iconic Millennium Falcon, the AT-AT and AT-ST Walkers, and of course the TIE Fighters and X-Wings.

A big part of the Star Wars magic comes in the form of aircraft battles, seeing the Rebel Alliance and Empire duke it out for control of the skies and space. The folks at Motive Studios are taking us back to that galaxy far, far, away and are giving us another chance to gain aerial superiority and fight for our respective sides as the latest Star Wars based space combat game is here. So does it soar high and proud or simply crashes and burns? Find out in our review of Star Wars: Squadrons.

In Another Place, Another Time

Star Wars: Squadrons features an original story that takes place within the original trilogy’s continuity. After the destruction of Princess Leia Organa’s home planet of Alderaan at the hands of the Empire’s Death Star, the game’s prologue has you follow a certain Imperial pilot accompanying Captain Lindon Javes and his second-in-command Terisa Kerill on a mission to find and dispatch Alderaan refugees hiding out in the space station Fostar Haven.

Circumstances, however, has Lindon betraying his former comrades, and later being saved in Fostar Haven by a certain Rebel Alliance pilot and his squadron, after the space station sent out a distress call. The game proper then picks up years later, after the Battle of Endor in Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.

You follow both the Imperial and Rebel Alliance (now called the New Republic) pilots from the prologue as they now fight for their respective factions in a battle that involves personal vendettas and an operation that can turn the tide of the war. This is the battle of the New Republic’s Vanquard Squadron versus the Empire’s Titan Squadron.

A Star Wars Side Story

In war stories, it is always interesting to see it from the eyes of the regular soldiers in the frontlines and not just from the point of view of the heroes. That’s exactly what you get in squadrons. Since it takes place after Return of the Jedi, it shouldn’t be any spoiler that Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader are gone, but it shows that despite their demise the war still rages on with no end in sight.

Star Wars fans are definitely in for a treat but it’s also going to be a little daunting for complete newcomers. This is because there’s so many references to events and places in the Star Wars continuity. Not to mention a couple of cameos from iconic characters like Admiral Gial Ackbar.

The story was really made with longtime Star Wars fans in mind, as there isn’t exactly any in-game encyclopedia that will explain Star Wars lore that certain characters may allude to. Nonetheless, it didn’t take away from the experience as the story was easy enough to follow. This is simply a story where starfighter squadrons fight it out, where some personal stakes for the commanding officers are involved.

It was also clever how the story campaign was structured. Normally, with a game having two different sides, you’d first choose one side and follow that campaign to the end. Here, the perspective between the Empire and New Republic shifts in between missions. This actually made it feel like you’re following a movie plot, and had you guessing after finishing a mission whose point of view you were going to play as next, which was pretty exciting.

Star Wars: Squadrons clearly shows who are the bad guys in the story as the Empire really has you doing questionable things, with your commanding officers and even your co-pilots showing how arrogant and brutal they can be.

Titan Squadron is very much ruthless and merciless in the frontlines, yet very much committed that they’re serving the right side and admirably also looking out for each other.  On the other hand, Vanguard Squadron feels like a bunch of tightknit friends with their carefree banter in and out of the battlefield, with their commitment to saving and protecting lives as strong as their resolve to fight for the New Republic.

Overall the story is pretty average – not groundbreaking and a little predictable, the kind that just works without big risks. The approach was understandable – make it simple enough that casuals and newcomers may appreciate, but also tick off the boxes that form a typical and cliche Star Wars experience.

There Are No Roads

This is a completely first-person experience with VR options. The core gameplay of Squadrons will be space combat so nearly for the entirety of the game you’ll be seeing the inside of a starfighter cockpit. Any gameplay where you’re not shooting down enemy fighters will have you customizing your ship loadouts or appearances, both the exterior and the interior of your cockpit. So this is basically a flight simulator fan’s dream come true, with a big plus if you like Star Wars.

The single player story campaign will take you through multiple missions where you’ll alternate as your created Imperial or New Republic pilot. There’s also the online multiplayer which puts up to 10 players in 5 vs 5 battles, with you playing as either the Titan or Vanguard Squadron. Aside from the deathmatch-like Dogfight option, there’s also the Fleet Battle where each team’s goal is to destroy the opposing team’s Capital ship.

The story campaign serves as a big tutorial for you to get to know each of the different classes of ships you will pilot for both the Imperial and New Republic factions. These ship are divided into the Fighters, Interceptors, Bombers, and Support classes and even if they’re all built to take down enemy fighters, they all have clear distinctions.

Fighters are your all-around ships that don’t excel in one aspect so they’re versatile, Interceptors are fast and hard to target, Bombers specialize in bombing runs, and Supports provide tactical aid to allies like shields and repairs, as well as disrupting enemy systems.

I loved how I was given multiple ships to choose from and experiment with to see which fit my playstyle. Of course in the story campaign you won’t be using all the ships at the very start but gradually, as you play, you’ll gain access to the other starfighters.

It will take around 11 – 13 hours to finish the campaign and by that time you’ll have had experience piloting all ship classes. It’s also not going to be easy as the campaign can get pretty difficult, especially in later levels, and this is just on the default Pilot difficulty. In higher difficulties like Veteran, enemies are more brutal. 2 or 3 of those total hours actually went to restarting missions!

As for mission objectives, don’t expect a lot of diversity here. Playing as either an Imperial or New Republic pilot, missions will have you simply following fellow pilots, destroying this, escorting that, regroup here, and fly there. But the repetitiveness didn’t really sour the experience since it is literally what Squadrons is all about.

Even if what you mainly do in the game is go pew pew pew and make things go boom boom boom, it was still fun flying around chasing down enemy ships. The satisfaction when your targeting cursors turn red, locking you to a target, is second to none, especially when you consider that these ships can move around as much as you do.

While it may sound dull and repetitive, there’s a lot of fun to be had because Squadrons really captures the feeling of those intense battles that you normally see in theaters. It was already fun in the single player campaign, and it’s just as fun in multiplayer where you have actual players you who employ similar tactics and maneuvers.

Do Or Do Not, There is no TIE

As you would expect from a game that focuses on tight and accurate controls, Squadrons does not disappoint. While using a flight stick would make the experience more authentic, a controller works just fine to give you the experience of flying in outer space. Each of the starfighters you pilot have a distinct look, even within the same faction, and you’ll need to familiarize yourself with each layout to know where to look if you’re checking your ammo count or knowing if you’re flying at maximum speed with your engine gauge.

One of the unique aspects of Star Wars: Squadrons that we enjoyed has got to be the power movement. Depending on your ship, the option to divert power to either shields, engines, or weapons at any given time added a certain level of strategy that you’ll need to manage to complete your missions. It definitely resulted in tense moments where you make last minute decisions like concentrating all your power on shields to protect what little health you have remaining as you wait for repair, or choosing to divert all power to weapons to give you that added damage to finish off an enemy, despite needing to regenerating your shields faster to protect yourself.

The game also does a good job of distinguishing each faction despite having basically the same ship classes. When you switch sides in between missions, you’ll really feel it as Imperial and New Republic ships look and play a little differently. Mainly, Imperial starfighters do not all have shield options like the New Republic, but they have extra options to increase weapon and engine power.

As a whole, all the ships handle decently here in Star Wars: Squadrons. Controls are responsive and intuitive, with multiple layouts to choose from. Admittedly, it may take a while to get used to flying a starfighter regardless of which side you choose. Aside from navigating and aiming, you also have to manage your different weapon loadouts, as well as know your power management buttons for that extra edge in combat.

If anything could have used more improvement however, it would be the AI commands. While both Titan and Vanguard Squadrons were very competent allies during the campaign, the lack of commands you can assign your companions was noticeable. Overall, the only thing you could do is lock onto something and tell your teammates to defend or attack. It may have been nice to add more depth to this like targeting specific starfighters or if you have Supports, assign them to repair/resupply your ship when certain conditions are met.

It’s Your Star Wars Story… Sort of

Customization is somewhat a mixed bag, and this applies to all the customizations aspects in the game, which includes ship loadouts, cosmetics, and character creation, with the last one being the outlier of the three.

When it comes to ship customization, Squadrons hits all of the right notes. For all starfighters, you’re given the option to edit your loadout depending on your preferred weapons and add-ons. The selection is fairly decent for certain categories. Ship hulls, for example, will give you options ranging from boosting your HP at the cost of speed and maneuverability, and so on. There’s a strategic layer to it, which will depend on your playstyle.

Cosmetics selections are fairly decent here too. Aside from decorating the exterior of your ships with different paintjobs and decals, what’s fun is you can even customize your cockpit interiors. It was actually fun cycling through the different items you can put, like hanging decorations, holograms, and even figures. There’s just a fair amount when you start, but as you play in multiplayer you’ll get the chance for more loot to give your starfighters that personal touch.

Character creation is where Star Wars: Squadrons falters. In the past we’ve had pretty deep character creation systems like those in Monster Hunter: World and Code Vein. The Outer Worlds’ was less detailed but it was still fairly decent. With benchmarks like that, it was a disappointment that creating both your Imperial and New Republic pilots was just a matter of choosing pre-made heads with fixed faces and hair, as well just having just a few body types. After that it just a matter of choosing your pilot uniforms and voices.

I know, I know. “But you don’t see your character most of the time anyways.” It’s just a shame how, for a game where you’re the central character of both factions, the customization options to let you design your own character is noticeably limited. Sure, you play the game mainly in first-person view but that doesn’t mean the options to create your ideal pilots should be limited. This is also the avatar that your fellow pilots will see in online multiplayer after all, so a lil’ effort would have been a nice touch.

The Force Is Strong In This One

Probably the most important aspect for any Star Wars based game is if it captures the feel of Star Wars. Fans won’t need to worry because Star Wars: Squadrons captures that feel near perfectly.

As if having it set within the original trilogy’s timeline isn’t fanservice enough, as well as having cameos by known Star Wars characters, Squadrons has settings and places that should be familiar to the fans like Endor, even though you don’t exactly get to go there.

While there’s no Jedi or Sith presence in the game, save for a very quick dialogue, the charm of Star Wars: Squadron lies in it focusing on the war part of Star Wars, specifically space dogfights. You will constantly see both sides’ hangars busy with personnel and your mechanic preparing your starfighter for combat, and even Stormtroopers marching if you’re in the Imperial hangar.

Mission briefings are detailed and tense. From time to time you’re able to engage in dialogue with your commanding officers and fellow pilots, where you get to know more about them and their personal takes on the war. Vanguard Squadron, in particular, features a diverse cast, with one of your teammates being a Trandoshan and a former smuggler. By the end of the campaign, you’ll have formed a bit of a bond with your Squadrons on both sides, provided you took the time to talk to them instead of rushing straight to the mission briefings.

Audio is also definitely up there in terms of Star Wars feels. Though there weren’t a lot of memorable tracks during combat, there are definitely iconic tunes that you will hear a lot in the game. Look no further than the very easy to recognize Imperial March music that you will constantly hear when you’re playing as Titan Squadron. You also shouldn’t count out sounds that can easily be overlooked like the sounds of lasers or the whistling as your ships fly by. These are as iconic as the lightsabers hums and when you hear these in Squadrons, you’ll definitely know you’re playing a Star Wars game.

Now we did say Squadrons captures the feeling of Star Wars near perfectly, meaning there’s a few hiccups here and unfortunately it’s the character models and facial expressions. While the voice acting and deliveries were mostly solid and convincing, it was just disappointing that the character facial models don’t really keep up.

In-game when talking to characters in the hangars or after mission briefings, it’s really noticeable how stiff they look, and it’s hard to be convinced to actually feel for them after telling you a story with a straight face. There’s a few very short moments where you can see them smile or frown, but they are very few and far in between. Speaking of delivery, your created character too can sound pretty awkward at times spouting lines that may seem out of place during a fight. One minute your Titan Pilot will call for reinforcements, and the next thing you’ll say you didn’t need help. It gets a bit awkward at times, but nothing that really breaks the game.

Squad up

As you would expect, Star Wars: Squadrons is best played with buddies. Multiplayer is a blast and with cross-play enabled, matches come at you fast. I mean fast, with just a minute or two in between matches. Surely it can be attributed to the game being quite new, but being a title with a solid foundation, expect full lobbies for quite a while.

Multiplayer offers 3 game modes in 5v5, Dogfight, and Fleet Battle, with the latter being something that we enjoyed the most of since it really relied on teamwork and strategy to down the enemy capital ship.

During out battles, we hardly encountered any connection or latency problems, and even in the most intense of sequences, the game held up pretty well, which is a testament to how solid the developers wanted the experience to be.

It may not be as vast and diverse as Battlefront, since Squadrons is squarely targeted at these ship battles, but it does that very well, and seeing as there will be no more DLC, this was an ironically unpopular way to go as the game would have been fantastic with more map choices and modes in the future.

What We Liked:

  • Authentic Star Wars feel
  • Manageable controls
  • Diverse choice of starfighters
  • Great voice acting and sounds
  • Decent story

What We Disliked:

  • Lacking choices in Character Creation
  • Stiff facial expressions and character movements
  • AI Commands needs more options

Verdict:

While there were some disappointments, Star Wars: Squadrons is a very good space combat shooter that’s actually fun both in Single player and Multiplayer modes. There’s more than enough in the game to justify its price tag of P1,795, especially if you’re looking for a “new” Star Wars experience other than the typical Battlefronts and Fallen Orders.

This is a game for the Star Wars fans through and through, but even just fans of aerial combat can find a game that they can sink hours into. Squadrons, despite its limited scope, puts laser focus on just the dogfights alone and is a better game because of it. Despite a few hiccups, this starfighter combat experience is soaring pretty high and deserves a place in any Star Wars gamers’ library.

*Star Wars: Squadrons was reviewed on a PS4 Pro via a review code provided by the publishers.

The OMG Review
Our review format is not your usual fare and we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings!

“Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above.

“Wait for it…” means that the game probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point, we suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10.

“Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future, unless you want to intentionally hurt yourself. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: October 2, 2020
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
  • Genre: Platformer
  • Similar Games: Mario, Sonic, Donkey Kong
  • Price: Starts at PHP2,795

Get ready for a wild ride through time and space as everybody’s favorite marsupial is ready for more fruit munching and crate breaking. Crash Bandicoot is back and it’s about time too! While Crash is still fondly remembered but definitely not forgotten thanks to the re-released N. Sane Trilogy and the fun Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled, but we’ve yet to see a proper new entry in the Crash Bandicoot series of platform games… until now. Is this a triumphant return for Crash to the spotlight? Let’s find out in our review of Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time.

A Tale of Two Bandicoots

crash bandicoot and coco

The game picks up directly after Crash Bandicoot: Warped and sees the return Neo Cortex and N. Tropy by escaping through a dimensional rift. Leaving these rifts unchecked is definitely not a good idea, so Crash and his sister Coco will need to gather the Quantum Masks, powerful sentient relics which hold the power of time and space, and once again put a stop to the plans of the evil duo.

The direct sequel to Naughty Dog’s original Crash Bandicoot trilogy clearly has longtime fans in mind. Newcomers may be a little lost with the story but it isn’t such a bad thing since the story is simple enough to follow. Simple is good, and a plot involving a pair of dimension travelling bandicoots stopping the plans of a couple of evil scientists is as simple as it gets. How you’ll be stopping them, however, is where simple stops.

Really good but really tough

Right off the bat, we’ll just say Crash Bandicoot 4 is a difficult game. When the developers, Toys for Bob, said they wanted to bring back the days of precision and skills in platforming for this game, they meant it.

From start to finish, the level designs and boss battles in the game will really put your platforming skills to the test, demanding precise timing and quick reflexes.

On top of everything, the addition of the Quantum masks will require a mastery to them that will easily have you grasping at your controller buttons. Each Quantum Mask you encounter has a unique feature that you will need to take advantage of. Lani-Loli can phase objects in and out of existence, giving you different platforms. Akano lets you perform a Dark Matter Spin that makes you invincible to some enemies and do long double jumps, but requires great control. Kupuna-Wa lets you stop time for a brief period, making slow moving objects platforms to step on and fast moving stage hazards slow enough to avoid. And finally Ika-Ika lets you switch your center of gravity, letting you walk on ceilings and possibly avoid long pitfalls. The addition of these masks coupled with level designs that complements them is a great way to summarize the fun to be had when traversing through the dimensions.

Level design is one of the most important aspects about the game and we can’t say enough good (or bad) things about it. The diversity of locales and designs are just amazing and one of my favorites has got to be the “Off Beat” level. It’s a definite highlight of this game as it combines superb audio and visuals into a level that’s worth replaying just for the experience.

The Gang’s All Here

Crash Bandicoot 4 will give you the chance to step in the shoes of other characters like Tawna (albeit one from an alternate dimension), fan favorite Dingodile, and even Neo Cortex himself. Tawna carries a hookshot that lets her smash crates from long range and lets her traverse long distances provided there’s a point to hook on, and she can wall jump. She doesn’t spin like Crash and Coco, but she sure has a mean spin kick. Dingodile is slow and hulking so he can’t double jump. He has, however, a devastating tail spin and carries around a vacuum gun that can let him suck in crates and bombs and lets him briefly hover. And finally Neo Cortex carries a ray gun that changes objects in platforms, either solid or gelatin-like to bounce off on, and he can air dash.

All the new playable characters are great additions because not only are they “new” faces to use, but their playstyles are original as well. Dingodile and Neo Cortex were particularly fun because of their ranged weapons and how they can smash crates from a distance, which is a fair trade since they can’t double jump like Crash, Coco, and Tawna.

If there ever was a slight letdown, it would be their limited use in their own stages. Aside from the main adventure, the game will be let you play as Tawna, Dingodile, and Neo Cortex in side stages where you can make use of their skills. For example, when playing as Tawna, we get to see her point of view and it’s through her actions Crash is able to advance through a certain level. The game then switches back to Crash and you will play the rest of the level as him. It all feels a bit redundant, especially if you already finished that level.

Speaking of redundant, it would have been nice if Crash and Coco had slightly different playstyles to really call it a diverse cast with different gameplay mechanics. Compared to the new playable characters, Crash and Coco are basically palette swaps where they both can spin, double jump, and use Quantum Masks the same way. Minor nitpick, but why not go the whole 9 yards?

Looks great, sounds great

Crash Bandicoot 4 is a beautiful game. It’s colorful and vibrant, and this applies to both the levels and characters. The game will take you through different locales across multiple dimensions from Crash and Coco’s home, the Wumpa Islands, to Pirate ships, Snowy mountains, and to even the Prehistoric era. They’re all distinct and the cartoony cuteness only adds to their charms. Enemies have enough variation to fit their respective stages perfectly. The Pirate stages have sword wielding rats and octopi, while the futuristic levels are filled with robots and flying cars.

Crash and company are equally well designed and animated. The cast may have looked great in the N. Sane Trilogy, but here in Crash Bandicoot 4 you can say that they really look like current generation characters with their smooth designs and expressive movements and emotions. You should see Crash or Coco’s face as they get chased by a big hungry T-Rex!

Crash Bandicoot 4 not only looks good but it sounds good as well. Talking lines between characters are witty and funny with spot-on delivery by the voice actors. The soundtrack is a highlight as well, with enough catchy tunes that will give you the urge to tap your feet even after dying for the 100th time during the level.

We’re Just Getting Started

So after my 12 hour romp (with around 2 hours due to dying and restarting levels) through the main campaign, do you think it’s all done? Think again. There are skins for Crash and Coco that you unlock by fulfilling certain objectives in a level, which include collecting all fruits, breaking all crates, finding hidden gems, and not going over a certain number of restarts.

For the nostalgic, there are Flashback Tapes that let you play levels from when Crash and Coco were still Neo Cortex’s lab experiments, complete with commentary and observations by Cortex and presented as if they’re being recorded on a video camera. Time trial is available as well for speedsters out there.

With the amount of collectibles in the game, the temptation is very strong to go back and get that last missing crate or to finish the level with one less death to get the reward. While it is satisfying to do so, it poses a real challenge that is very time consuming. Simply finishing a level towards the latter half of the game is tough enough as it is, but to get all crates AND not die enough times? That’s a pretty tall order.

If you’re a glutton for punishment, may we recommend the N. Verted mode? It’s basically a mirror image of the levels in the game, which adds a whole new layer of memorization and offers a fresh take on levels you thought you already mastered. Did we mention that the N. Verted levels have their own sets of goals to fulfill, unlocking different sets of Skins?

With all of this, it may seem that Crash 4 is the hardest thing in the planet next to the Souls games and Sekiro, but Crash is not at all unfair. Frustrating and difficult, sure, but not unfair. There’s hardly a point which forces you to say “how do you beat this?!” but there are indeed a lot of instances where you exclaim “almost!!!”

Bring a few friends over

An interesting feature to Crash Bandicoot 4 is actually its offline local multiplayer feature where up to four players can go head to head in challenges. In the main campaign it’s actually possible for four players to pass and play, where one player, after restarting or reaching a checkpoint, has the option to let another player take over. At the end of the level, individual scores get tallied.

If you want something different, then there’s the Bandicoot Battle where players can compete in either Checkpoint Race or Crate Combo, and both are pretty intense. Like how the main campaign will test your skills, you will now have to put those skills to the test against another player. Checkpoint Race really gets that competitive spirit flowing as you try to reach each checkpoint in a level as fast as possible. If that’s not hard enough, Crate combo will require you to also smash as much crates as possible along the way. These aren’t exactly versus mechanics in the literal sense, like say a fighting game, but they fit well for a platformer as you’re testing all the skills you’ve learned and comparing it to another player.

What we liked:

  • Difficult but fair gameplay
  • Loads of content
  • Catchy Soundtrack
  • Colorful, vibrant graphics

What we didn’t like:

  • Reused levels in side character levels
  • Lack of diverse gameplay between Crash and Coco

Verdict: Buy it!

Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time may be difficult and yes, it demands a lot to be able to get all those collectibles, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. The game is already pretty lengthy for a platformer where you can finish the main campaign in almost 11 to 12 hours, but it offers so much more even after that, from new ways to play like the Time Trials and N. Verted Modes, to couch coop fun with the Bandicoot Battles.

While there were some slight disappointments like the mentioned reused levels for side characters and Crash and Coco not having more different playstyles, Crash Bandicoot 4 still offers a fun story to follow, memorable characters, catchy music, and difficult but fair level designs that will clearly challenge completionists out there. Newcomers looking for a challenging platformer will definitely get their hands full here.

Fans have waited long for their favorite bandicoot to be back in a proper new entry, and the wait was simply worth it. Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is a triumphant return to form for an iconic video game mascot.

*Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time was reviewed on a PS4 Pro through a review code given by the publishers.

The OMG Review
Our review format is not your usual fare and we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings!

“Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above.

“Wait for it…” means that the game probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point, we suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10.

“Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future, unless you want to intentionally hurt yourself. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: September 9, 2020
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One, PC
  • Genre: Shooter, RPG
  • Similar Games: Fallout
  • Price: Estimated SRP PHP749.99

We loved the The Outer Worlds when it released and it was quite the experience. Merging immersive storytelling with player choice, it was definitely an Obsidian specialty. The story of the unknown colonist turned ship captain who was freed from deep sleep in order to save the Halcyon Colony, or condemn it to servitude at the hands of Capitalism, was an enjoyable ride thanks to its characters, and writing.

Now, Halcyon is calling us back, and we’re more than willing to take a trip into the Outer Worlds once again with the latest DLC called Peril on Gorgon.

Welcome back, Captain

Peril on Gorgon adds not just a new Main Quest to the base Outer Worlds game but also adds new areas, characters, Science weapons, Perks, Flaws, and even increases the Level Cap. It’s not just another quest, but something that expands the experience with enough content to justify the price of admission.

New to the game? Unfortunately, you’ll need to progress at the base game first before you can take on the DLC and while it’ll be quite the trip that you’ll need to take before you get to DLC territory, we can assure you that it is a trip worth taking.

Peril on Gorgon has you and your crew intercept a mysterious package delivered directly to your ship, the Unreliable, and compels you to visit a new area, the Gorgon asteroid. What looks like a simple retrieval operation requested by a wealthy client is actually more than what it seems, and is really the highlight of the DLC. The storytelling is fantastic and you’ll be glad to know that Obsidian continue their streak of delivering an immersive experience here.

As such, we’d rather not go too deep into the details of the story since it really makes up a big part of the game but in the 6-8 hours of this DLC, the developers definitely really hit the spot that fleshes out the lore of The Outer Worlds. If you wanted to know more about some of the greedy corporations that run the Halcyon Colony, you’ll get the chance here and much more.

peril on gorgon environment

The action is not limited to the Gorgon Asteroid alone. Your journey will take you to familiar areas like the Groundbreaker and Byzantium, only this time, there will be new areas that you can explore. It actually felt fresh being able to see different areas of places you have visited in the base game, even if these areas weren’t exactly big in scale compare to the new star of the game: Gorgon itself.

Gorgon is a vast locale. There’s a lot to see and do in Gorgon, and it would do you good to explore early to get access to those Fast Travel points fast, unless you don’t mind walking and fighting your way to your mission objectives.

For the record, Gorgon isn’t drastically different appearance-wise from the other places in the Halcyon Colony and this actually relates to one of the slight disappointments regarding the DLC. Even though there’s an entirely new area to explore, the enemy variety and so-called “new armors and helmets” are not strikingly different from the ones already in the base game. The same creatures and marauders you fought before? Say hello to them again.

By itself, it’s not a bad thing. Our original review of The Outer Worlds already touched on the lack of variety and, in hoping that it would actually improve through this DLC, we were somewhat disappointed.

peril on gorgon environment

Lore Galore

The way Outer Worlds ropes pulls you into its story is continued here in the DLC. What was equally impressive was the fact that the new story details never felt out of place but really a part of something bigger, integrated into the game in a very natural way, emphasizing fluid continuity from the base game. Peril on Gorgon will not only provide more context and reveal secrets about certain people and places you’ve already visited, but at the same time get you on a quest that feels fresh and exciting.

peril on gorgon story choice

As with the base game, you are still free to be a straightforward goody two shoe or a wiseass to people you meet and talk to. The main loop and systems don’t really change at all, and branching choices are also back, which very much echoes the base game’s Edgewater story where your choices have consequences.

It also goes without saying more dialogue will be open to you depending on the stats you have invested in, especially your people skills. It was a little disappointing how certain dialogue choices are locked behind pretty high requirements, like persuasion or intimidation, but at least after your initial playthrough you’ll know what to invest in next. In it lies the beauty of The Outer Worlds and the DLC, which gives you multiple ways to go about a certain situation, which you can choose to change the next time you play through it.

It was actually fun not just using your guns to get out of tight spaces and it is this same level of freedom that was so amazing in the base game being extended here to the DLC.

peril on gorgon science weapons

There are new side quest as well to augment the experience, and although they require some backtracking, their rewards are worth the hassle. Exploring and finding these side quests actually improved to the overall experience of the DLC and we found ourselves losing track of time because of the number of things you can explore across Gorgon – logs of its past inhabitants to deleted messages you can read that will paint a picture of what actually happened on the asteroid, all contributing to the fantastic world building of the game.

The experience was not bug free, unfortunately, as the game had a tendency to crash when continuing from an autosave. There were also a couple of loading issues where the game would freeze in the middle of exploring the world. They didn’t make the game unplayable, but it was certainly something that can be improved in time for the next DLC.

What we liked:

  • Great story
  • Loads of dialogue choices allowing for multiple ways to deal with a situation
  • DLC expands on the already fantastic world

What we didn’t like:

  • Lack of enemy and armor variety
  • Technical hiccups

Verdict:

For it’s $14.99 price tag, Peril on Gorgon was a great reason to hop back into The Outer Worlds. Featuring a great story that builds on the already magical world and approximately 6-8 hours of playtime, every dialog choice and chit chat made the experience worth it.

One could argue that the additions were not drastic or game changing and we would certainly agree, the DLC didn’t take enough risks and played it safe. But the fun to be had here is in the stories and details that you learn as you make your choices throughout the world, and that alone was good enough to merit the praise.

If you ever needed a reason to go back to the Halcyon Colony, this may very well be one, and with a tempting price tag, Gorgon and all its mysteries await.

The OMG Review
Our review format is not your usual fare and we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings! “Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above. “Wait for it…” means that the game probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point, we suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10. “Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future, unless you want to intentionally hurt yourself. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.
Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: September 17, 2020
  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC
  • Genre: RPG (Roguelike/Dungeon Crawler)
  • Similar Games: Bastion, Transistor, Moonlighter
  • Price: Estimated SRP PHP1,100

I don’t have a good experience with roguelike games or anything that involves dying and losing all your bonuses in the process. I got pretty far with Azure Dreams back in the day and it was one of my favorite games for the PS1, but because I completely messed up a monster build, it completely turned me off from the game after. Soulsborne games are definitely part of that experience and with the exception of Bloodborne, I’m not a big fan.

My experience is the same for Supergiant Games, where Bastion was one of my first and favorite indie games of the past because of its easy to complete dungeon crawler while being serenaded by Nick Cave. Unfortunately while I do appreciate the art and lore that came with Transistor and Pyre, they felt way too linear for me. Here comes Hades and for the longest time I felt like I would never start this game. Due to the fact that 13 Sentinels was shorter (but really good!) than expected, I loaded Hades on the Switch Lite and I was hooked from the get-go.

You take the role of Prince Zagreus, son of Hades, as he makes his way out of the underworld once he discovers that his true mother is still alive. Against his father’s wishes, the rebellious youth takes his Stygian blade and makes his way out of Tartarus defying hordes of undead, hell’s sentinels, and mythic nemeses from the Minotaur to the Hydra; Zagreus challenges death itself to taste life beyond the walls of his prison in the underworld. As each death pushes him to restart on his Sisyphean journey (more on him later), every death makes him stronger and more impervious to the challenges Hades casts in his way.

God of Hissy Fits

While I prefer Norse mythology to the Greeks, when a story is done right, I don’t mind the setting. Assassin’s Creed Odyseey did a good job with showing Ancient Greece in tune with their mythology. While the story of escaping hell isn’t new (see Dante’s Inferno and Agony), Hades really pushes to re-brand this subgenre, showcasing Tartarus, Asphodel, and even Elysium – each a different area of the Grecian mythological afterlife.

hades hydra

The bonuses Zagreus receives as he progresses through the level are akin to what a mythic hero would receive just like Theseus or Herakles. A god or goddess, basically one of your uncles or cousins would grant you weapon or stat bonuses that range from common, rare, epic, or heroic. Your Stygian blade or future weapons to be unlocked will receive said bonus that would make your journey easier fighting through hordes of monsters. Besides the health bonus from defeating enemies, you also earn Charon’s obols– currency you could use to purchase passive effects, healing bonuses, or even night shards (more on this later). 

As you enter new randomized rooms and encounter new enemies, you will learn that every room has a different bonus that you could earn after vanquishing the enemies within. Centaur Hearts increase your life, Pomegranate Energy and Daedalus Hammers upgrade the boon you’ve received from your relatives or improve upon your weapon. You could choose to enter rooms that correspond to the icon of said deity and improve upon their boons, or choose to earn Night Shards, Nectar, Gemstones, Chthonic Keys for permanent rewards. Now you ask, why are they permanent rewards, what about the other power ups that you’ve received? 

hades death screen

Walk It Off

The moment you die, and you will die, you lose all the bonuses you’ve received during that run. All that centaur hearts you’ve collected, the upgraded bonuses, and all that gold, gone in an instant. What if you’ve reached Elysium after defeating the Hydra and Megara in the lower levels? Too bad, you gotta start all over again from Tartarus. You’re back to level one, your weapon is back to its basic attributes, and if you went through your run collecting just transient bonuses, you just have to move on and walk it off.

However, as I said you have permanent power-ups that you can use back in Hades’ kingdom. Night Shards can give you permanent passive bonuses, Chthonic Keys allow you to unlock new weapons from your armory, Nectar allows you to build your relationship with the denizens of Hell and Olympus, and Gemstones give you capacity to make adjustments to your world whether you allow treasure trove challenges to litter Tartarus or cosmetic changes such as changing Hades’ furniture much to his chagrin. You are a rebellious teenager after all.

hades cerberus

I feel that this is where the game gets more fun once you’ve learned how to differentiate between the permanent rewards and the transient bonuses. I hated using the Stygian Blade, the moment I found other weapons such as the Heart Seeking Bow and Aegis: The Shield of Chaos– going through the dungeons became a lot more enjoyable attempting to improve on your last run. In fact, after a while, I didn’t mind dying. All the Nectar you’ve received, you can use to bribe your subjects and receive keepsakes that grant bonuses and you can power up through your travels. Plus I enjoy Zagreus needling his father as they get on their nerves with their insults and banter. If you want you can pet Cerberus as much as you want. Much of the story is hidden in the subtle dialogue throughout the game and unlocking areas in Hades’ palace. Resist the urge to reset when you die because that’s when you actually get stronger. 

Reimagining The Roguelike

While other roguelike games get frustrating at that point, Hades actually finds a way to marry player death with RPG character progression. Games like Moonlighter are fun until after a while it becomes a slog because after dying for a number of times or healing at the pool punishes you. I find myself losing motivation when this happens and then I end up quitting the game much too early. Hades pushes more for what Darkest Dungeon does with their games, they give quite a bit of carrot before beating you with a large stick.

Although it feels daunting starting from the first level after you’ve completed the region countless times, with no shortcuts to start from the next level, fighting the same bosses all over again, I feel that it actually trains you to enjoy the Sisyphean madness. You are like Sisyphus pushing that proverbial boulder up the hill, fighting the same hordes of enemies and bosses until you’ve achieved your goal. Yet it is best to think of Sisyphus with a smile on his face when doing so, because each new encounter gets easier as you get stronger with your permanent bonuses and new equipment you learn to master. Plus when you actually meet Sisyphus down in Tartarus, he’ll give you some pretty sweet swag.

hades sisyphus

What we liked:

  • Beautiful art and mood music that keep you inspired.
  • The roguelike experience is flexible and you keep coming back for more.
  • The randomized dungeons, loot, and power-ups make every dungeon crawl unique.
  • Customization of your palace in Hades and permanent bonuses are fun to grind.
  • Interesting spin on the “escape from hell” sub-genre with entertaining dialogue and lore to keep you engaged.

What we didn’t like:

  • That sinking feeling you get on the first few runs where you have to restart all over without keeping your bonuses and the dread of fighting the same bosses all over again.
  • Nintendo Switch has no achievements.
  • Harder to play older Supergiant Games as everything improved with Hades.

 

Verdict: Buy It!

Believe the hype. Those high review ratings and perfect scores you see aren’t a joke.

Hades is an enjoyable dungeon crawler that makes you appreciate the roguelike genre with the right balance of challenge, exploration, and customization. At the same time, it is an inexpensive game that you can get right into without making you feel bad after your purchase like so many other games out there that cost twice as much.

Hades will challenge you, kill you, but make you come back wanting more with its fantastic art direction and voice acting. It hooks you from the get go and doesn’t loosen its grip, with each dungeon run being unique and a whole new experience that you’ll not tire of so easily.

The OMG Review
Our review format is not your usual fare and we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings! “Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above. “Wait for it…” means that the game probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point, we suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10. “Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future, unless you want to intentionally hurt yourself. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.
Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: September 22, 2020
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4
  • Genre: Strategy-RPG/Visual Novel
  • Similar Games: Zero Escape Series, Front Mission 3, Odin’s Sphere, Oxenfree
  • Price: Starts at PHP2,695

Ever since their last published game – Dragon’s Crown back in 2013, Vanillaware went for a long hiatus broken by PS4 remastered releases of Odin Sphere Leifthrasir and Dragon’s Crown Pro, released in 2016 and 2018 respectively. Known for their beautiful watercolor artwork, intricate character design, addictive side scrolling gameplay, and intricate non-linear storytelling – Vanillaware was one of the publishers I was excited about going into the eighth generation expecting to revitalize the stagnating JRPG genre. However, in their absence, the visual novel actually took off with Spike Chunsoft leading the way of its greatness with Kotaro Uchikoshi’s excellent Zero Escape trilogy, the Danganronpa series, and Steins;Gate. The JRPG fell by the wayside with Square Enix reminding us of Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest’s legacy or Atlus updating their Persona remasters bleeding our wallets dry with the same, rehashed stuff.

To my surprise, when 13 Sentinels Aegis Rim was announced a few months prior and Vanillaware made a quiet comeback, I jumped at the chance to try their next installment. From the get-go, the title starts strong going against the grain of the overwrought and exposition heavy JRPGs present throughout the PS2 era moving forward. The stage is set in 1985, where an incoming kaiju army invades a densely populated Japanese metropolis. With conventional weapons impervious against such a power, enigmatic mechas – The Sentinels – appear to combat these monstrosities boasting superior firepower pushing back against this invading force. Amidst the excitement, the story takes a step back and explores the young pilots of these Sentinels living carefree lives before this invasion. As each character’s prologue unfolds, we find out that these future warriors are part of an intricate plan that spans generations connected by time travel, government conspiracies, and high school drama.

Jumping into the game, it reminded me of Front Mission 3 meets Odin’s Sphere’s non-linear storytelling. In terms of character roster, they have about the same amount of characters as Front Mission 3 and double that of Odin’s Sphere. Unlike Odin’s Sphere’s Gwendolyn, none of the characters seem to stand out from the get go. However, the story plays out on a more grand timeline that spans between 300 or so years of time travel jumping from WWII era Japan to the post apocalyptic wasteland of 2060 to the new age of humanity in the early 2100’s. The myriad of events and mysteries that encompass the game is vast and piques my interest in the grand scheme of the world they’ve created.

It’s a Visual Novel first…

What really stands out from this game boasting the Vanillaware storytelling mechanic is how their narrative adapts seamlessly into the Visual Novel genre. Unlike the Steins;Gate series, which bombards you with text and voice-over, it follows more of Danganronpa and Zero Escape’s approach towards a more interactive playstyle. It touches on the hallmarks of the visual novel with cues on certain words and clues, where the glossary mechanic in Steins;Gate has been replaced by the Thought Cloud mechanic where a character can ruminate on an item, idea, or character. When encountering a character, one could unlock additional dialogue options as well as uncover Mystery Notes where you can uncover more events by spending Mystery Pointsearned by completing battles and bonuses from receiving an S rank on missions.

13 sentinels: aegis rim review screenshot 1

With thirteen characters to explore, each with their unique voices, quirks, and storylines, every character’s unique interaction with each other opens a new path to character choices, unlocking mysteries, and exploring relationships. Though the first two hours of the game really start slow, introducing such a vast world and going through an intricate tutorial system for both its strategy-RPG element and its visual novel element. Once you’re through half-dozen prologues and tutorials, the game opens up to a free-to-roam interface where you could completely discover as much of the story as possible or you could skip that for the Front Mission style Strategy RPG combat. I’m a more narrative-driven gamer, so I explored the visual novel component first before really diving deep into the Strategy-RPG parts. In fact, I cleared about 50% of the visual novel component before even diving into the very first post-tutorial mission of the game. Your playstyle may be the opposite, to get as much as the fighting out of the way before diving into the story, and the game does not fault you for it. In fact, as long as you clear the missions, most of the visual novel parts would be easily accessible.

13 sentinels: aegis rim team organization

If you feel that the story would give everything away by plowing through the narrative, a character’s progression hits a wall where you could not progress a character’s story until you’ve collected such components like specific battle missions or if you’ve unlocked different areas of the codex by using Mystery Points earned through said combat. Some of the blocked stories are unlocked by progressing in some of the characters’ story arcs. Like Octopath Traveller where certain characters have better stories or better branching consequences than others, the visual novel doesn’t just lock you into a specific character’s story from start to finish. The storytelling is well constructed as certain reveals are held back until you have completed certain story arcs for some characters. Each of the thirteen protagonists contribute to the mysterious and alluring world that Vanillaware has built, and not one deviates from the organic unity of said world that’s built on inspirations from classic science fiction stories from War of the Worlds to The Terminator. There’s enough science fiction fodder for every subgenre you know and love.

A Strategy-RPG second

While travelling down the Front Mission nostalgia train is a welcome distraction, I didn’t have a good first impression on the battle system. The grids do remind me of Front Mission, but in terms of design and detail, it felt like it was tacked on. I could see that most of the development has been put into the Visual Novel aspect of the game and the strategy-RPG part appears uninspired.  However, playing more of the mecha battles later into my first hour, I could see why they didn’t go all out with the design. They’re short bursts of strategy action ranging between five to ten minutes of game time before returning back to the visual novel aspect of the game.

13 sentinels: aegis rim tutorial

Of the Sentinels I’ve controlled, they each have their own unique style of combat. You have the melee types that are great against tanky kaiju, while you have the long range types that are effective with clearing the board of creeps. Finally, your command center allows you to charge an ultimate attack to slow down the wave of kaiju obliterating your city or activate a support skill that either heals your Sentinels or increases experience. While it may seem like a turn-based battle at first, it quickly becomes complicated as the waves of enemies don’t wait for you to make your move. They bombard your units with chip damage, setting up for the larger kaiju to deal a substantial amount of hurt. Yet as protagonists, you do have an advantage with powerful attacks that expend special skills. It deviates from the tried and tested Front Mission and Super Robot Wars style strategy and is more akin to a quasi-real time strategy format.

13 sentinels: aegis rim battles

Once you’ve completed the tutorial phase, it becomes a lot more Front Mission-esque when you start to spend Meta-Points earned in battle and in completing character chapters to learn skills and upgrade current attacks. As the pilots level up, they learn unique individual skills that boost other characters you bring into the field. The challenge is also ramped up by bonus objectives you can earn additional Mystery Points from completing. While my first impression of it wasn’t great, the more I played the Strategy-RPG component, the more it brought me back to the updated Front Mission style game. My bad first impression has been debunked and I feel the “outdated” graphics actually contribute highly to its unique style.

Too steep?

While I felt it started a little slow to set up the world, it also ended at the right amount of time story-wise, but it was only when I was starting to get going with the Strategy-RPG part. Unlike classic Front Mission games, where you scour through long campaigns, collecting parts, upgrading skills, and improving your mechs, the simplified customization gives you enough to go by. If you feel that you want to get your money’s worth, you could always increase the difficulty of the skirmishes for more Mystery Points and complete your trophies. However, for a visual novel akin to the Zero Escape series, it’s a little on the short side. Though don’t let the price deter you from enjoying a beautifully crafted science fiction visual novel.

13 sentinels: aegis rim review screenshot  2

If you’re willing to spend on this type of game, you’re in for a short but remarkably satisfying experience. Vanillaware is back with a vengeance with a well-crafted title on their hands that greatly outdoes Odin’s Sphere. It’s a wonderfully crafted story with enough jaw-dropping twists and reveals that will keep you guessing at its many mysteries. Unlike most visual novel games that take a break from the reading and flowchart progression with uninspired puzzles (I’m looking at you Nine Doors, Nine Persons, Nine Doors with your damn timed sudoku puzzle) with exciting strategy mecha action.

What We Liked:

  • Beautiful hand painted art as with all Vanillaware games.
  • Intricate non-linear storytelling opening various choices and events with impeccable narrative timing.
  • Game gives you enough freedom to explore depending on your gaming preference.
  • Battle interface starts simple but becomes a lot more complex going through the missions.
  • Customization is simple to learn and becomes fun enough to sustain interest.
  • You don’t need to be a weeb to enjoy.

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Tutorial is too long.
  • $60 is a steep asking price.
  • Endgame missions lacks level diversity missing out on extra replay value.

Verdict: Buy It!

While I feel that it is a little steep at launch price, it is the JRPG/Visual Novel I’ve waited since the end of the Zero Escape series and brings back what Front Mission missed out on with their modern titles. The story alone is wonderfully crafted and it ranks up there with other visual novel classics like Oxenfree, Steins;Gate, and the Zero Escape series. If you’ve missed the JRPG genre from the Playstation One era as well as what it could’ve been at the end of the PS2 era, this is definitely the game for you. I’d suggest to even switch on the Japanese dub to get the full experience of the game as it was intended. Actually, the Japanese dub is the only way to go, because the English dub is quite the ear ache.

For budget conscious gamers, I would suggest putting it on your Wish List and buy it as soon as it goes on sale even at 10-20% off, it is worth the price tag. For those who are unfamiliar with the visual novel format, this game is a perfect entry point for that type of genre. If you’ve played Strategy-RPGs in the past, it’s a great jump off point to get into the rhythm of the game. While I would say it’s 70% narrative-driven and 30% strategy-RPG, at the very least you’re in for a visual treat you rightfully deserve.

The OMG Review
Our review format is not your usual fare and we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings!

“Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above.

“Wait for it…” means that the game probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point, we suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10.

“Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future, unless you want to intentionally hurt yourself. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: September 25, 2020
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
  • Genre: Action Adventure
  • Similar Games: Grand Theft Auto, Sleeping Dogs
  • Price: Estimated SRP PHP1,995

With the release of Mafia: Definitive Edition, the Mafia Trilogy is finally complete for current generation systems. Gamers wanting to relive the glory days of the franchise are in luck, and even those new to the series can fully experience all 3 games in the comfort of their current gen consoles.

While the definitive editions of Mafia II and III were not exactly exemplary releases, due in large part to a number of technical issues that plagued its launch, this latest game is more than just a remaster.

Touted as a remake and reworked from the ground up, expectations are sky high, especially coming from an early preview that looked rather promising.

Is the third time a charm? We’ll find out as we dive back into the world of organized crime during the 1930s in our review of Mafia: Definitive Edition.

Welcome to Lost Heaven

Mafia takes place in the fictional city of Lost Heaven and puts you in the shoes of Thomas “Tommy” Angelo, a taxi driver who became involved by just being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

After reluctantly helping a couple of mobsters escape a deadly pursuit, Tommy is targeted by the rival mob they escaped from and is forced to go back to the group he helped that fateful night. Despite not wanting to get involved with organized crime, Tommy joins said mob under the rule of one Don Ennio Salieri, and becomes friends with Sam and Paulie, the two mobsters he helped escape.

The game will take you through Tommy’s life from cab driver to a big shot in the Salieri Crime Family. And if the previous re-releases are already any indication, this is in no way a pleasant story and shows just how dangerous the world of organized crime is. It is however, an amazing one to follow, and is really the backbone of the game.

Just like Mafia II and III, Tommy’s rise and fall is a story that’s told beautifully in Mafia: Definitive Edition. The developers were not kidding when they said they would rework the game from the ground up in terms of graphics and cinematics, and the difference is certainly night and day but more than anything, the storytelling carries the brunt of the improvements, and what a treat it is.

Graphical fidelity is of course not up to par with titles like The Last of Us Part II or Ghost of Tsushima, but this remake is no slouch, even looking much better than the definitive editions of Mafia II and III by quite a margin. The character models during the cinematics are on point and details like the facial stubble on Tommy’s face are captured beautifully. Facial expressions are also very accurate – when characters talk and are happy or angry, it clearly shows.

Most games have a problem with “dead eye”, or eyes that seemingly feel lifeless and hollow. Mass Effect Andromeda was a big culprit of this and is admittedly something tough to pull off but 2K and Hangar 13 have done an excellent job at bringing Tommy and Sam and Paulie as well as the rest of the crew back to life.

This improvement in graphics also extends to the world around you. The city of Lost Heaven is recreated well and is an accurate representation of a city during the 1930’s – billboards, factories, and trains all accounted for. If your impression of a city during an era of organized crime include fancy fedoras and trenchcoats, the tommy guns, and bulky automobiles, Mafia has it all here and recreated in stunning fashion.

The storytelling in the game is complemented by beautiful cinematography, and really nails the feeling of watching an actual mafia movie, accented by sound design that really stands out.

Music to my ears

Mafia’s music and voice work is simply top notch. Every voice actor portrayed their role very well and really did justice to their character. When you hear Tommy and his friends banter and have a laugh, you can really feel their bond, for example, and a lot of the dialogue is genuinely funny. In every scene, whether it’s something lighthearted, suspenseful, dramatic or intense, you can feel the effort of the voice actors delivering their lines.

Just by driving around the city, you can instantly hear the step up in sound design. Vehicles of old have that clang and bang of parts and there’s a lot of ambient noise just by walking around the streets. Mafia: Definitive Edition is a game that’s best played on a headset, as there are a lot of small audio details that go unnoticed on TV audio that definitely add to the immersion factor of the game.

The musical score is one of Mafia’s strongest points. With a fully re-recorded soundtrack full of licensed works, everything was a pleasure to listen to, taking you back to the 1930’s at the flip of a button. During the more intense action scenes, the orchestral music really compliments the action, and is reminiscent of the mafia movies of old, capturing that Scarface or Godfather feel to it that definitely accentuates the mood.

Like the story, we had very big expectations from the audio department and we were not disappointed. It was in this aspect that Mafia II and III stood out after all, so we’re glad that Mafia kept the hot streak of fantastic audio intact. Superb work from 2K and Hangar 13 on this one.

Just another day in the life

Gameplay, on the other hand, is kind of mixed bag. By no means is the gameplay bad. In fact, it’s actually quite decent, but as a game that was touted as a Remake for the current generation, there are certain expectations. A Remake is more than just a brand new coat of paint and some new features, with Resident Evil II and Final Fantasy VII being some significant benchmarks.

First things first, Mafia is but is also not an open-world sandbox game. The main campaign is actually very linear, as its strong point is in the amazing narrative after all. Going through the campaign, however, felt repetitive due to how the missions were structured.

The game is divided into chapters, and mostly playing these chapters has Tommy starting in Salieri’s bar, the game’s central hub, then picking up some guns and choosing his ride, then driving to the mission objective. After you’re done, chapter ends with the next having almost the same pattern. Start at the bar or some venue, get your gear, pick your ride, drive to mission objective, and finish said objective. It becomes noticeable almost halfway through the game. It’s not bad per se, but may give off the feeling of repetitiveness for some.

It is a remake after all, so it would have been great to kind of make the mission to mission flow a bit smoother, something like how Grand Theft Auto does it.

Tools of the trade

When dealing with the police or rival crime families, you can dispatch your enemies with your fists, melee weapons, or a semi-wide selection of guns. It’s also here, however, that another one of our expectations let us down.

Hand to hand combat here is a joke, and literally only involves 2 buttons being mashed repeatedly, offering almost no strategy or variation. The timing to dodge perfectly is quite tough to catch, but you can simply mash triangle and follow up with mashing X after. Every enemy will fall to this same tactic, which is rather disappointing.

The shooting and cover in Mafia does its job fairly well, but isn’t as snappy and as fluid as other similar titles out there. There’s a sort of stickiness and sluggishness to the controls which gets quite irritating during hectic shootouts where you want more accuracy. The cover system is helpful enough though, and you’re able to duck and hide at a moments notice. It’s serviceable, but could definitely be much better.

The handguns, rifles, and tommy guns function like you expect them to, but it felt very awkward that the shotgun doesn’t do spread damage and will just kill 1 enemy when you shoot more than one at the same time. That said, overall gunplay leaves something to be desired. Enemies hardly flinch when shot at, and the feedback from receiving damage is severely lacking, sometimes leading to you die just because you didn’t know that you were taking damage already. This was a major gripe for us, which is also connected to the UI and HUD elements in the game not being too intuitive.

The enemy AI in Mafia may also be a bit on the… well, we won’t really say dumb side, but the AI could have been improved. For one thing, while it may be understandable due to invincibility frames that you can’t be hurt when doing a finisher on an enemy, it just looks funny how they will just stand there and look at you beating up their buddies. During gunfights, enemies will break cover not to flank you, but just stand out in the open. Some were still smart enough to stay covered, but expect to see the AI hide behind cover only to later step right out and go into a stylish kneeling pose with guns blazing. It obviously made the game easier, but that’s really not the point.

The game also has stealth missions that felt very basic, with obvious paths to victory laid out for you. There’s hardly any alternate way to go about a mission or a level, meaning that one path is almost always the only way to finishing your mission.

There are particular missions that really stand out – the bank mission, the art gallery, even the prison. These missions had really great level design and sequences that really pushes the gameplay to a frantic pace which was just fantastic. We couldn’t say the same about the rest of the missions, and while they weren’t bad, they just weren’t as memorable as a select few.

Questionable AI also extends outside of the gunfights. The police are perfect examples, giving up chase too easily as long as you gain a small lead on them. The AI for the cops is wildly inconsistent. One time they’re giving up within the first 10 seconds of the chase but when they’re hot on your tail, it can be very VERY hard to shake them off.

Making my way down town

If a break from the campaign is what you’re looking for, Mafia offers the Free Ride option where you are… well, free to ride around the city of Lost Heaven at your own leisure. The guns and cars you’ve unlocked throughout the game will also be accessible here and you can just go crazy or ride around looking for the various hidden collectibles. Here’s the issue: What’s the point?

Free Ride and the Main Story could have just worked as one mode altogether. Why separate the leisure exploration from the main campaign when, like most sandbox games, story advancements can be triggered manually, which goes back to our point earlier about mission to mission flow being a lot smoother. While this would make Mafia just like any other open-world game, obviously Grand Theft Auto, feeling similar to the iconic franchise shouldn’t be a problem for Mafia since it’s already well-received for its setting, story, and characters.

Free Ride is there to let you just go crazy and forget about the main campaign. But aside from cars and different collectibles scattered around like comics and cards, there just wasn’t any other incentive. Lost Heaven looks great as a city with some notable places to visit, but it’s a shame there’s not a lot to interact with. You can’t even ride the trams or visit shops and buy things, or at least have more mafia-like stuff to do like collecting protection money or whatever else Mafia people do during the weekends.

To be fair, driving the cars was a really pleasant experience due to the much improved controls. Most cars, in general, do not feel sluggish to drive and are responsive enough to merit zigzagging through traffic with ease.

As a Remake, there was so much potential in making a more interactive Lost Heaven that it really feels like a huge missed opportunity to add depth to that part of the world. Riding around is fun for a bit, but the feeling gets old rather quickly with hardly anything to do.

Needs A Bit More Polish

Mafia, like II and III that released before it, isn’t free of any technical hiccups. There were a couple of instances where the mission refused to let us advance even though the objectives have been met, prompting us to restart from the last checkpoint.

There was also a massive frame spike during the parking lot mission where the game simply froze on us for about 5 seconds, probably unable to render the ongoing action, and just magically worked again after.

Speaking of frames, it was rather disappointing that the game was not able to hit 60fps, which would have been fantastic. There are certain missions with some noticeable frame dips, but nothing too bad to make you want to toss your controller. Often times, frame rate is steady, which is good.

Loading times are pretty lengthy too, and it is particularly frustrating to have the game load again because you died due to you not knowing you were taking damage, as we mentioned earlier. Loading only happens in between missions and in between deaths though, so the frequency of it isn’t too bad.

There were also some occasions where the audio completely cut off during a cinematic, with one instance of nothing coming out at all that we thought the game froze until subtitles came out. All in all, though bugs are sometimes expected, it was just a bit of a letdown when they happened in a Remake that was reworked from scratch, especially during a cinematic, which is one of Mafia’s strong points.

What We Liked:

  • Fantastic story that leaves you wanting more
  • Amazing voice acting and music
  • Great cinematics

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Weak gunplay
  • Massively underused open world
  • Long load times
  • Inconsistent AI

Verdict:

On the merit of story and characters alone, Mafia: Definitive Edition is a fantastic game. Memorable personalities, gripping and intense storyline with a superb soundtrack behind it, Mafia is indeed worth sitting through until the curtains close. This is the Mafia that you’ve come to remember and love.

That’s only half of the game though, with the other half being a bit of a let down. Touted as a remake, it was quite disappointing to see such great improvements to the recreation of Lost Heaven but not be able to interact with it enough. Add the rather outdated melee combat paired with gunplay that could be snappier and you’ve got a game you’d love and hate at the same time.

Mafia: Definitive Edition is actually an above average game, and it’s very likely fans of the original game will enjoy this to experience Tommy Angelo’s story once again. For everyone else, however, waiting for it could be the better choice. Out of the trilogy, this ‘first’ game is hands down the best release by a mile but is bogged down by some issues that felt like it was stuck in the past, even after the remake.

Mafia: Definitive Edition was reviewed on a PS4 Pro via a review code provided by the publisher.