Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning Review

Turning back the clock 9 years ago, a solid action RPG, known as Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, came out on PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. The game was developed by Big Huge Games and 38 Studios, and published with the help of EA. The game had a very successful launch with reviews that landed the game a big 9/10 from IGN and an 81 on Meta, but for whatever reason, we did not see anything more from the franchise. IGN speculated that reports advised massive layoffs which resulted in the sequel to be canceled, and things stayed silent until the year 2020, in which the remastered version of the game released with updated stunning visuals and refined gameplay. This remaster was refreshing in bringing back the MMO-like gameplay that we all loved so much in our single-player title. You can buy this masterpiece on all current generation and last generation platforms for only $39.99, and it’s worth every penny. 

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For players that never experienced the original game, the remastered version is the best place to start. Kingdoms of Amalur is set in the Faelands, a kingdom that is home to the immortal Fae of the Summer and Winter Courts. Essentially rather than passing on, souls are reborn in a new body. Players get to embark on their journey as a customizable character that becomes the “Fateless One”, who was supposed to have died but was successfully revived in an experiment led by Foromous Hugues, a gnome scientist. The kingdoms are torn in a war between the mortals and Winter Fae that players are dropped right in the middle of, literally. Because of the main character’s lack of fate, they decide to journey to find Hugues in hopes of uncovering the mystery of your death and also aid in the war along the way.

This game is fantastic for those that love old-school action RPGs like the Elder Scrolls series, and those who love MMOs like classic WoW. Once players enter the open-world part of the game, there is no clear path for the game, because players get to decide if they want to continue on the main quest or complete tasks, faction quests, or side quests. Every region is huge and loaded with endless adventures, and the main character is not tied down to any specific path. Players also get to choose “their fate” meaning their class. One can change and customize as they go, unlocking different advanced tiers from basic classes. For example when players cross between a rogue and a sorcerer disciple or even a tier 3 arcanist. This game is designed where there is no intended set class, and players can choose how they want to play without being locked into one role.

The remaster does not change much to the game, aside from some smaller or underlying changes like most remasters do. Many complain that the game is the same, but that is the difference between a remaster and a remake. So for players that were looking for major changes, this is not the game for you. The graphics are a lot sharper compared to the original game, and a lot more contrast and detail were added making the game look crisper than the first. Level lock no longer exists like the first game and the experience reward system has been changed to further balance the game. Loot is also now more catered to your designed character instead of randomly generated so players will find use in most of what they pick up. Load times are one complaint I found often from other players, but that is more based on the platform gamers are playing on. I played on my PS5 and honestly found no issues.

The only changes I would have liked to see are in the number of overwhelming fetch quests. I loved side content when it comes to any RPG, especially open-world RPGS. However, this game is filled to the brim with side quests and tasks, especially fetch quests. When players visit towns, they are immediately bombarded with on average 4 to 5 quests that are split between menial tasks (slaying monsters or gathering items), and helping out NPCs with missing persons or aiding in their troubles. This would not be a problem with there were not like 10 towns in the immediate area and players also have their faction quests. As some players might overlook this and skip some quests, completionists like myself end up pulling their hair out. It also can end up extremely overbearing for new players. Trimming down on some of this redundant quests would have been a better balance for this remastered version.

To revisit the visuals and performance, the game can be a bit buggy. For example, I got major Oblivion vibes when an NPC randomly glitched in front of me and I saw nothing but this head and arms in the sky. Overall though the performance is solid, and the animations look clear and crisp. The music creates an even better calm atmosphere, immersing players into what can be described as the ultimate fantasy experience. I also have had no framerate issues with the game which is oddly something I was expecting.

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In conclusion, I loved this remastered version of the game. Kingdoms of Amalur was already a fantastic ARPG for its time, and to be able to revisit this title was not only nostalgic but also very enjoyable. The subtle changes greatly improve players’ experiences with the game while also keeping its classic playstyle that was popular for that period of time. Though the game can be a bit buggy like many RPGs can be, and there were not many changes as far as visuals go, this was a great remaster and I can’t get enough from it. 

DVS Score: 8/10

Black Legend: A Steam Review

Turn-based is one of my favorite genres in gaming because of how the gameplay ranges in such a broad spectrum. You can go hardcore into turn-based strategy and play legendary titles like Civilization and Age of Wonders, or even maybe dive into a more tactical setting like Fire Emblem. The genre even branches out into Turn-Based RPGs like Final Fantasy, and Persona, which are iconic franchises that have been around for over a decade. Black Legend, however, takes an interesting turn in mixing a free roam setting with tactical gameplay. I did not get to spend as much time as I had wanted in this title, but overall I found it to be very lackluster. While the gameplay feels very satisfying in a tactical sense, there are a lot of areas that can use a lot of improvement when it comes to the free roam standpoint as well as overall performance. This game can be purchased on all platforms for $29.99 and was developed and published by Warcave.

Black Legend takes place in the city Grant, which is cursed by a dense fog and infested with the fanatical Mephistian cult. You create your character and lead a band of mercenaries to aid the resistance and take back the city by uncovering the dark truth behind the cult’s activities. The concept for the story was greatly executed, and the atmosphere did well in drawing me into exploring the dark and deadly city. The game gave an overwhelming feeling of desperation and curiosity with cultists lurking around every corner. One of my biggest issues lies with the free roam part of the game. As I previously stated it did a good job in enticing players to explore, but with any free roam RPG a sense of direction is extremely important.

The game tells you where to go via cutscene and quests, but there is no direction on where the objective will be. The game fails to provide players a map or compass, leaving players to memorize street signs or wander until they land upon the objective. RPGs with free roam need these features if they are going to have location-based quests. I do like that you can engage any NPC in the game and that they will give you random side quests or bits of information to aid your investigation of the cult. This aids in drawing players more into the environment and helps to take away the navigational frustration in a way. I do wish that they would organize the menu more as far as class and quest information goes. I also wish the shops were more customized and showed the player items that are already in inventory.

The gameplay was a huge redeemer for this title because it gave you endless options for character placement and development. The combat system was very well designed and adds a sense of difficulty even in normal. You get the freedom of having a small area to preemptively place your characters before the real combat begins. Then you get gameplay that mirrors Fire Emblem or XCOM on a smaller scale, taking turns with each character and enemy. You can pick from 15 different character classes to assign your mercenaries such as sharpshooters and alchemists, and stack different humors, or actions, in one turn to strategically take out your enemies or move your characters. The possibilities for combat are abundant, and if that isn’t enough for players you can change to a high difficulty which includes permadeath.

However as previously mentioned the menu layout is not well designed by any means with the lack of information for important areas such as weapon assignment per class. A lot of the unique abilities for the different classes felt useless in combat as well. I often found myself turning to guides because of the lack of information and viable classes in general as well as ability set-ups. The combat can also take ridiculously long regardless of difficulty right off the bat, leaving players bored until more abilities and combos surface. 

One other issue I take with the game is the optimization and performance. The game runs well on PC, but on consoles and Steamlink the optimization suffers tremendously. The button mapping is more geared for keyboard and mouse as opposed to a controller which is leaving many players frustrated. Frame rate issues and glitches are rampant on consoles as opposed to PC depending on build. There is also a game-breaking bug that forces the player to restart the game completely. Crashes are a plague on consoles both with new generation and old generation. The only issues recorded with PC regardless of build tend to be installation issues, which are generally fixed by reinstalling the game.

It’s not that I would not recommend the game, but I encourage players to look into it before purchasing. I would urge console players to refrain from playing it until these performance issues are addressed period. The game has good qualities and a lot of potential, but it suffered from poor execution. The combat is great as well as the story, but all the issues overshadow what the game has to offer. I hope the developers can take this as a learning experience if there is to be another entry for the title.

DVS Score: 5/10

Maquette: PS5 Review

Playing Maquette was an incredibly interesting adventure to take part in with fantastic music, a beautiful art style, and cleverly designed puzzles used to unlock parts of the story. While this genre is known for huge titles like Portal 2The Talos Principle, and CatherineMaquette still blew the minds of players for the current generation in the gaming industry. While this game did not tap into the full potential for its puzzles, the overall concept was perfectly executed and the environment evolved seamlessly with the story. This title was one of the best-designed first-person puzzle adventures I have ever played, for it is rare to see a story blend so perfectly with its environment. Developed by Graceful Decay, and published by Annapurna Interactive, Maquette is available on Playstation and PC for $19.99. It is currently still free for PSN users until the end of the month. 

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The story is based on modern couples and follows the memories of Michael and his former lover Kenzie. As you navigate through what seems to be a dome or various locations, you see various stages of the couple’s relationship and the various emotions that Michael experiences throughout different stages of their partnership. The Maquette shines ever so brightly as the memories of their first encounters come to life, such as the café where they first meet and their first date at the fair. You can feel the heightened emotions between Michael and Kenzie for what seems like true first love. Over time through the different chapters, you notice as the locations change and what seems like a decay set in which is used to signify the problems between the two. The puzzles start to get a bit more in-depth, and the distance for travel feels longer and creates a feeling of being powerless. Buildings start to crumble, leaving behind what used to be a warm and loving environment. The dome expresses the emotions so well throughout the story, you almost feel as you are the one experiencing happiness and heartache. I also commend the game for its dialogue, for that is one of the few aspects in most video games that tends to fail. The voice acting feels very genuine and authentic compared to most story-based games. The story itself felt a bit generic but depicts an accurate representation of failing relationships and closure. The game portrayed is so well that despite the lack of uniqueness to the story, the game represented it so well that it felt empowering.

I do not have too many complaints, for the game overall was very well executed. There were a few bugs here and there with the puzzles that resulted in a chapter restart or reloading a previous save, which did cause quite a bit of frustration. The puzzles were fairly well designed and very unique, for you play in a dome with locations that can be described as dioramas. There is also a mini dome that replicates the one you stand in, and a larger one outside that you navigate later in the game. The minidome is mostly used for resizing and placing larger versions of an object, such as a bridge to cross buildings or a key to gain access to locked-off locations. Some objects are used for multiple purposes in varying ways that force the player to think “outside the box”. For example, a key can turn into multiple uses of transportation outside of unlocking doors. Later on in the game adds a new level of cleverness in problem-solving, for it adds access to the outside layer where your base dome becomes increased in size. A switch might be only accessible in the mini-dome to give you access to a locked-off area in your central dome. A bridge might have to be placed down in your mini-dome to become supersized for the outside dome, and stairs might be placed in ways you’d never think of to reach the unreachable. You end up having to figure out where the next part of the puzzle takes place, and where to complete certain actions. I would have liked to see the puzzles get a little more in-depth, for the majority of them were not too hard to solve, but this was mostly a minor complaint. This game was one of the few instances where the atmosphere actually made the game. My other complaint is for trophy hunters, as a hunter myself I was originally seeking to platinum this game. Unfortunately, some of the trophies don’t unlock when they should causing you to repeat actions. For example, though I completed two of the levels in the respective time for some of the trophies, they failed to unlock. Some quick fixes are reinstalling the game from what I have researched, but overall it just killed my want for the platinum. Additionally, for speedrunners cutscenes do count towards your time meaning you have to skip annoyingly enough.

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Originally after beating this game I did not feel too impressed until really looking back on it and remembering the obstacles I went through to complete it. This game left feelings that stuck with me, and ultimately lead me to write about it. This title was truly unique and is the definition of one of a kind. While some aspects can be improved, I genuinely enjoyed the atmosphere and gameplay for this game. It’s a riveting and truly unique experience that challenges players not only in critical thinking but also emotionally as you navigate the feelings of an uncompromising and unforgiving tale. While this game might not be for everyone, I recommend it for the majority.

DVS Score: 6.5/10

DwarfHeim: A Steam Review

I always love a good Strategy game to kill some time, whether it be the classics like Warcraft 3 (not Warcraft 3 Reforged) and StarCraft, or even Age of Empires 2 Definitive Edition and StarCraft 2. Setting up your base, upgrading your abilities and technology, and even going for domination by setting up your elite army are always addicting and empowering. I love spending hours even in Civilization not just trying to win, but setting up my cultural peaceful existence unlocking world wonders. I was excited to be able to try something new out like DwarfHeim, and the results were extremely pleasant despite the rough start. DwarfHeim is a co-op RTS that is class-based and filled with dwarven shenanigans. It was developed by Pineleaf AS and published by Pineleaf AS and Merge Games. You can only experience this dwarven-filled adventure on PC though for $24.99.

Starting in Dwarfheim was a bit rough and there were quite a few bugs and crashes that left me restarting the game. First and foremost the game is extremely unique compared to other turn-based strategy and real-time strategy games. This is because the game is primarily a cooperative game, whereas other RTS games are heavily equally geared towards the single-player and multiplayer experience. There is no story campaign for Dwarfheim, and none coming out as far as we know in the future. The only options for single players are sandbox mode and 1 vs AI to practice, which is very unique as far as any real-time strategy games go. This brings up one other issue, for if you want to play multiplayer I highly recommend finding friends. I went to queue for multiplayer and ended up waiting over 20 minutes every time and eventually gave up. You also get a choice of units to play per each mode that you can attempt to lock in, which are Miner, Builder, and Warrior.

The gameplay itself is insanely fun and a bit dumbed down compared to other real-time strategies for the most part, yet some parts can become very intricate. For instance, the upgrades for abilities are limited, as well as building options like your standard lumbermill and barracks. However, on the flip side, the game shows its dwarven roots when it comes to setting up your mining in the underworld. To get certain resources such as steel ingots, you have to strategically set up your forge to make them with the transmuter. Only certain ore and coal can enter this to create certain ingots, but to separate them you need a splitter to avoid sending incorrect ore or ingots that specific way, otherwise you need to clear it out. You get different structures such as a rock crusher, ore sorter, forge, and warehouse. They all must be specifically set up to get all the resources you need to create other buildings, units, and upgrades. The possibilities for setups can be endless, which makes playing heavily miner-based so exciting!

Some more practical issues I have with the game are issues that I never expected to have in my gaming career, and that is the lack of tutorial. Usually, I am great at figuring things out with any game, but I love tutorials for any strategy game, especially when it comes to PC due to the endless key bindings and structure uses. The reason I had a rough start, as well as other people with Dwarfheim, is the overall lack of explanation. The tutorial shows you how to move your units, attack, some building, and how to navigate the underworld. However, outside of that, there was little to no explanation. I found myself looking into the key bindings often to figure out the simplest things, even down to rotating objects to set up my base. Most of the setups such as the forge and structure setups I had to figure out myself or look up guides that people made on YouTube or Steam to help others due to the lack of instruction. The other reason this is a problem is that I spent a good amount of time trying to find a slow-paced option to learn the game, which leads me to warn people to avoid 1 vs AI until they know the game and stick with single-player sandbox mode. 

All in all I do enjoy this game, and like any RTS I found myself hooked once I got through digging up key bindings and guides to learn everything. I do hope the developers will add a better tutorial in the future, but all in all, it is a solid strategy game. I do hope the player base keeps growing so the queue times drop for those who have no one to enjoy this specific genre with, and that the developers also look into a possible campaign mode. I loved the overall art style and music, and this game feels like it would be a great candidate for a strong story. There are some kinks and bugs to work out but overall this game is solid and worth syncing a lot of time into.

DVS Score- 6/10

Paradise Lost: A Melancholy Bunker

When I initially opened up this game, I honestly was not sure what I was in for. I immediately got Bioshock vibes with this steampunk, post-apocalyptical atmosphere. However, I could not imagine that the story could have such a strong impact on this title. The game started what seemed slow, only to creep in and leave a feeling of heartache and a choice that seemed almost impossible to pick what was right. Paradise Lost is an indie adventure game developed by PolyArmorous and published by All In! Games SA. You can purchase this on Playstation, Xbox, and PC for $14.99. If you don’t mind slow gameplay and love heavy story-based video games, this is the game for you. 

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The story takes place post World War 2, but instead of the Nazi Army of Germany losing there was no victor. Instead, the Nazis launched nuclear missiles on most of Europe leaving nothing but a wasteland. Afterward, Europe was shrouded in radiation and smoke, and it seems like all life has disappeared. You play as a survivor, a young boy named Szymon who is 12 years of age. His mother has recently passed, and all he has left is a photograph of her and a mysterious man. As the boy, you find a Nazi Bunker in hopes of finding this man, only to run into a girl named Ewa who contacts you through this mysterious technology, and strike a deal in hopes to reach your goals. However, the farther into the bunker you go, the more secrets and dark truths you uncover. The atmosphere only adds to the depressing tale of Szymon, for you have to climb, crawl, and discover all of the horrible pre-wasteland truths of the Nazi warriors and their experiments and technology. Swastikas cover the halls, documents and letters are left at every turn and desk, and there are blueprints and recorders left at various meeting rooms and lobbies alike. The more you read, and the more you listen, the more these dreadful truths come to life.

I loved this story premise, for going into this game you have no sense of self yet, and you have to read through every article and listen for dialogue to match them up with the infrequent cut scenes to put the pieces together. A lot of games struggle with storytelling when trying to make it heavily reading-based, but this game surprised me in how well they executed this. You also get to read perspectives from the fallen civilians and soldiers along the way to see how life was before everything ended. The voice acting was a bit off in terms of the German accents, but nothing that impacted the game too heavily. One other minor complaint I have is that there are only a few instances where you can choose your responses and none of them aside for your final choice matters. It would have been nice to see more instances with dialogue choices that somehow impacted the game to make it a bit more interactive. I will give a warning for players, for this game is not for the faint of heart. Due to the settings of this game, there are a lot of letters and recordings with derogatory statements, and there are actual swastikas everywhere since this is placed in a Nazi bunker.

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The gameplay was nothing really to write home about, but honestly, some games do not need solid gameplay to get them through. This is overall a story-based adventure that makes the game so solid. However, there are some issues I did take with it. First and foremost in any game like this, where you discover and read for more clues, I think that collectibles are insanely important to push players to want to venture more through every area they possibly can. I also would have liked to see more interaction with different tools that you would need on your adventure, for in the game you only really needed a document to get through the first area and an access card towards the end. It almost felt like the adventure went too smoothly, there was no danger or obstacles which let’s be honest if you are in a bunker that’s falling apart at the seems I expect difficulty. My last complaint is there is no sprint whatsoever, and the walking is insanely slow. I mean almost unbearable, like the original Final Fantasy 12 kind of slow. If you want players to take their time, by all means, but don’t have an angsty 12-year-old slow crawl. Overall these were minor issues, though they did impact the slow storytelling a bit the ending honestly made everything so worth it. 

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Overall I loved the game; though it got off to a rough start I am happy that I pushed through it. The atmosphere was beautifully designed and filled you with a sense of feeling utterly alone and helpless. Playing as Szymon was a really hard experience and strong journey, and the character was extremely well designed. Ewa was also a fantastically written character, and her overall story was probably one of the most heartbreaking scenarios that anyone could experience. This is was of the best story-driven games that I have had the pleasure of playing in a long time, and I highly recommend this game to Indie Adventure lovers of all kinds.

DVS Score: 7/10

Interview: Hitting the turnbuckles with RetroMania Wrestling

Let’s be honest. The landscape of wrestling games these days hasn’t been earth-shattering. WWE 2K20 wasn’t the best AAA game out there by a mile; and WWE Battle Grounds, while an improvement, still fell victim to corporate planning via its microtransactions.

However, not all is lost. Fire Pro Wrestling World has a great community; and there’s also RetroMania Wrestling, a loving follow-up to the classic WWE Wrestlefest. Now, of course, it’s not licensed by any group, but it does have a number of superstars to its credit. The game has been out for Steam for a little while now, and it drops on Xbox One this Tuesday, with a release to follow afterwards on Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4.

We recently caught up with the game’s team lead, Michael Hermann, to discuss how the game came together, its reception, and what fans can expect in the long haul. What a rush, indeed.

First off, congrats on the Steam launch of the game! How has feedback been thus far?

So far so good. We had one little hiccup at the beginning but I am proud we are at 86% Very Positive rating on Steam which is awesome.

Why do you think it’s taken so long for a WWF Wrestlefest-style game to hit the market? Do you believe there just wasn’t any interest at the time in retro wrestling, or maybe something different?

I think it is because making wrestling games is pretty hard. There is a ton of artwork that goes into a game like this. It has been no easy task getting this done!

How did you go about putting the roster together for the game? Must’ve been difficult with so much talent belonging to official companies.

Licensing was difficult. We had to navigate ownership of all the wrestling gimmicks and seeing who we could get and who we could afford. But I really targeted guys I liked. We were really going for an eclectic roster and I think we have a great one!

What kind of modes are incorporated into the game? Are there any that are considered fan favorites at the moment?

Right now we have Story mode, 10 Lbs of Gold, Retro Rumble and Versus. I think everyone likes them all! It is a great mix of game modes to keep people busy trying all the different types of matches. 

How have the live broadcasts for the game been going? Any chance we can get a Blue Meanie show going?

They have been great! We love to pop into  streams and see who is playing. As for the Meanie, you never know!

Any word on the console versions just yet? We know they’ve been delayed, we assume you’re just making sure they’re good to go before they launch.

Xbox is coming March 23rd. Switch shortly after, just trying to confirm with Nintendo. We are waiting to hear back from Sony.

What’s the word on DLC? We’ve already seen some announced wrestlers, but is there anything else you can tell us about what’s in store?

Nothing at this time. We are planning our DLC and have already started to work on it. More details to come soon.

What’s the biggest challenge when it comes to making a “retro” wrestling game such as this?

Well, most of the difficulties have been due to my inexperience making games. Estimating time frames has been tough. Everything is always more complicated than you think it will be. But we are just about over the finish line.

And finally…what does the future hold for Retromania? Could we see a sequel down the road? Or is it too soon to tell?

Who knows?!? We are keeping our options open and we will see what happens after our initial launch.

Hot Brass: A Steam Review

When you think strategy, you look to your favorite classics such as Warcraft 3, Starcraft 2, or even great current games like XCOM 2. However, I want everyone to turn their attention to a fantastic game that can fulfill anyone’s strategy needs. Hot Brass is a great indie strategy game developed by Walk of Kings and published by Treasure Hunters FanClub and Fellow Traveller. At first, when I heard of this title I didn’t find myself all too excited. There aren’t many reviews on this aside from Steam reviews from players, and overall their score was a 7/10 which is fair. Yet after diving deep into the title, I was nothing short of impressed which the real-life feel it gives, as well as the challenging gameplay. You might ask how a 2D Indie title can produce such feelings, and here I will explain why strategy lovers need to get this game.

In Hot Brass, you play as an elite SWAT operator that goes on various missions where you capture dangerous criminals in bunkers, save hostages, and obtain evidence to put away these criminals. These missions, however, really test your skill in terms of clean arrests and not getting over run by arms individuals. If you take a shot against an armed criminal, this will automatically fail the mission. If you accidentally assault an unarmed individual that is not hostile, this will also fail the mission. Any kills with unhostile individuals will result in a fail, and if you alert targets and they escape you will also fail. Any kills will deduct points even if they are clean, and you also get points deducted based on the time given. You also get a number of extra challenges to complete in the game that contribute points. For every badge met on your mission score, you will unlock more missions in the future or arcade modes. The environment of the game feels insanely life like, where as the individuals actually have dialogue and will say things just like in real life situations. The atmosphere created also gives a sense of urgency and stress, though you need to take your time because rushing will certainly get you killed. The music is also absolutely fantastic, which I tend to look for in any game that I play.

The gameplay and tools given to you in the game are unique in a way that makes it more life-like. You get gear such as a rifle, pistol, and armor. You also get gadgets such as a flashbang, grenade, breaching charge, and more. Various tools are given control-wise like night vision and tactile equipment to help you see in locked rooms. This way you have a number of stealthy ways to infiltrate, take down your enemies, and avoid unwanted altercations that lead to failed missions. My only issue is the controls can feel overwhelming and clunky at times. There were times that I would accidentally taser a criminal that I detained, and it is easy to get caught on random objects in the room. You can use the spacebar to hop over them but depending on the situation it can be extremely inconvenient (example: 3 arms enemies in a medium-size room all shooting at you). The button layout is a bit odd as well, but you get used to it over time. You also get the ability to shout to deter enemies to coerce them into surrendering. My only issue with this, while it is a good tactic, is it seems to rely on RNG for it to work on enemies. Some enemies will ignore completely as you shout, and when you end up in a room of 3 enemies with 1 that surrenders and the other 2 ignoring that are armed you will most likely lose points from having to shoot.

All in all, I do highly recommend Hot Brass for the experience, and to satisfy strategy lovers like me. Though the controls can feel off, and the force system needs some tune up, the game is insanely fun and challenging. It’s definitely a great way to kill time and play when you want to destress from the time-consuming big titles that suck away your soul. I love discovering new Indie games like this game, it’s for sure a hidden gem. To sum this up, go to steam and buy this game for $14.99 and lose yourself in the SWAT operative world. I can not wait to see what this developer has to offer in the future.

DVS Score: 7/10

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 Nintendo Switch review: once bitten, twice sly

We would’ve been content enough with the masterful Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night from Igarashi-san and company when it released last year, if only because we’ve been waiting for ages for our Symphony of the Night itch to be scratched. But Inti Creates launched a surprise from left field with the 8-bit style Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, a thrilling throwback title that fit right in with the short but sweet legacy of the series. And now, while we wait to see what Igarashi has planned next, that team has already returned with a sequel.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 pretty much picks up where the first game left off, with a handful of characters battling evil forces with an array of weapons. Like before, you can switch between these heroes with ease, using their abilities to access new areas and uncover secret goodies. But is the adventure worth it the second time around? We’d definitely say yes.

Some New Faces To Join the Old

The only returning character from the first game is Zangetsu, the warrior who’s relentlessly hunting down enemies. He’s joined by a number of favorites, particularly Dominique, an exorcist who knows a thing or two about using her spear; as well as Robert, who can nail enemies from afar with his rifle; and Hachi, a dog that can summon a demon tank. Yes, you read that right. You might’ve seen him in Ritual of the Night; and now he’s on full display here.

That’s one way to make an entrance.

You can balance between characters to find all the goodies within the game, and use them against some of the mega-bosses here, which are better designed than the original game. They require a lot of damage and a bit of strategy, including a weird pseudo-train boss with a hero embedded on the front, complete with shield. It’s just…odd. But fun in its own Bloodstained sort of way.

What’s great is how Curse of the Moon 2 lets you revisit completed stages. This is ideal when you unlock all the characters, as you can explore unreachable areas and even take on new strategies for bosses to wipe them out much more quickly. And each one has something special, though, honestly, Hachi is likely to be your real favorite here. Let’s be honest.

The gameplay is exquisite and just as solid as the original game, if not a little more refined. Death can still come cheap in certain areas, just like the Castlevanias of old; but it’s about what we’d expect with the territory, so that’s not entirely a bad thing.

And what’s more, collecting everything in the game unlocks an ending that really wraps up the adventure nicely. It’s worth the effort.

A Presentation To Be Proud Of

Inti Creates once again pays full-on tribute to the classic Castlevania games with Curse of the Moon 2. Its 8-bit heritage shines in every aspect of the game, from the multi-scrolling backgrounds that are reminiscent of Dracula’s Curse past to the neat little animations. And what’s more, the level design is stunning, even if it’s not an open world like Ritual of the Night. Its point A-to-point B method works just as well as the first game.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 is a hot time.

I also liked the mid-stage sequences, which not only get you acquainted with each character’s abilities but also lets them interact with each other in humorous ways. They’re short but definitely sweet.

And the music is awesome, dare I say. It sounds like something you’d hear from the Castlevania games of old, taking advantage of 8-bit processing like a champ. Not to mention the sound effects resemble something from the NES era as well. It all sounds wonderful, especially on a headset. There are no character voices, but they aren’t really needed here.

Accept This Curse As Your Own

I’d like to think that Curse of the Moon 2 continues to move the Bloodstained series along in its own special way. It improves upon components from the first game, while at the same time introducing effective and memorable characters (HACHI!) that really add something. Some more stuff to do after collecting everything would’ve been ideal, but overall, this is one Curse that’s well worth the acceptance.

RATING: 8.5/10

A sequel that continues to carry the Bloodstained name with pride, Curse of the Moon 2 is worth partaking.

Liberated Nintendo Switch review: Big Brother is watching

These days, it’s a little tough to see where our government is going. Not to get all political here, but needless to say, it’s scary times right now. That’s kind of why games like Liberated stand out. Sure, it’s in a far distant future with far more controlling rules at stake, but you can feel the desperation of the characters that you are in charge of.

For a few hours, the game presents a unique side-scrolling adventure, backed by a beautiful (if imperfect) black and white comic book style that brings out the best of classic noir. It does have its setbacks, but those of you interested in an engrossing thrill ride – especially with themes that resonate with some of what’s happening today – may be interested in giving this a go.

In the Not-Too-Distant Future?

In the future, an event takes place that forces the government to keep a closer eye on people. But it’s not just a matter of surveillance, as balancing also comes into play. For instance, if someone’s spending a little more money than they actually make, they’re put into question.

Liberated’s visual style goes a long way — even on the Switch.

That’s where the game’s first character, Barry, fits in. As the story goes on, we see other perspectives as well, but it’s interesting how everything unfolds with comic book panels and scenes that piece everything together. It’ll draw people more into it, compared to the usual side-scrolling adventures we see these days.

However, sometimes glitches just get in the way.

The game reminded me of an awful lot of U.S. Gold’s classic Flashback. There are high stakes that force you to act quickly. However, your characters have more tools of the trade, including a drone that occasionally comes in handy for plotting ahead. The action’s also very well-paced, though the game does slog across a Quick-Time Event sequence every once in a while. It’s not like they suck, but, honestly, we would’ve preferred straightforward action.

The stealth sequences are done very well, too, but they can be a bit difficult for those that aren’t prepared for a challenge. But the more you play Liberated, the better idea of what kind of experience you’re in for. This is one that definitely teaches you a thing or two as you go along.

A Solid Presentation Marred By Technical Issues

When I played Liberated on Steam a little while back, I was mesmerized by how beautiful it was, especially when it came to how seamlessly comic panels blended with the action. Most of that came over to the Switch as well, but there are some technical hiccups.

For instance, a few bugs enter the picture, as if the game came out with some untested things. That’s not to say it’s broken, but they’re easy to notice in both handheld and docked mode.

That aside, however, the game’s still a beaut to look at, with its mesmerizing black-and-white style and stunning animations. You’ll be right at home if you can get over the technical hitches.

That, and the audio is good as well. The music, when it kicks in, is atmospheric enough; and the sound effects fit right in with the visuals. It’s not a tour-de-force that will make you put on a headset, but it fits with the theme of the game.

Is It Worth Liberating On Your Switch?

Liberated does have its setbacks, namely with the lame QTE’s and the visual problems. But at its core, its adventure is still very worthwhile, thanks to a timely story and gameplay that combines the better parts of action and stealth. And there’s something to be said about its comic book noir style, which you just don’t see in games anymore. If you can look past its imperfections, you’ll find a troublesome future that’s worth embracing. I just hope they patch up some of the problems sooner rather than later.

RATING: 7.5/10

If you can get over some glitch issues and the Quick Time Events, Liberated fits right in with your Switch library.

Golf With Your Friends Nintendo Switch review: par for the course?

These days, golf games aren’t quite as common as many would prefer. We’ve seen no sign of a Mario Golf entry in this generation just yet (it’s coming though, right, Nintendo?); and EA Sports gave up its pro game, forcing 2K Sports to step up with its PGA Tour 2K21, arriving this August. So what are players to do in the meantime? Well, you can putt balls around with Golf With Your Friends.

Originally released on Steam a while back, the casual-friendly golf hit has finally made its way to consoles. It’s not without its caveats – namely with the lack of a course editor that extends the replay value. However, it does have positives as well, especially if you have a group of friends looking to become king or queen of the putts.

It’s All In The Hips

General gameplay for Golf With Your Friends works on a basic level. You can aim your shot with relative ease, then set up the power with the analog stick and press the button to launch. There are secondary things you can apply as well, including spin, which is quite useful when it comes to getting around certain obstacles on each course. And, boy, are there obstacles.

Yes, the course design is a bit ridiculous.

The first course alone has some holes that will test your patience, particularly one with rolling logs that may force you to start over entirely since you never really get a proper chance to reset the ball. But then come later courses, including ones set in a space station, a museum, and even one based on the Worms franchise. They’re deviant, to say the least, but they might be too complex for their own good.

That’s not to say the game is bad, because it’s not. It’s just certain things that get in the way of getting full enjoyment out of it. For instance, the “free cam” feature, which gives you 15 seconds of looking over the course before playing it, actually does very little good because it ties in with the regular controls. That means you can accidentally pull off a shot, even though you’re just looking over the course.

If some tweaks were made to the game’s controls – particularly with speed and having a “reset” option in case your ball just doesn’t stop rolling – it’d fare a lot better. As it stands, Golf With Your Friends has decent gameplay, but never really anything that goes above and beyond.

Course Design Aside, This One Doesn’t Look Bad

Despite the developers going a bit mad on the over-the-top course design, Golf With Your Friends doesn’t look half bad. It’s not an extremely polished game like, say, Rory McIlroy PGA Tour, but it captures the general appearance of what mini golf should be. And there’s some charm here too, particularly with some bonus power-ups on the course.

As for the music, it’s okay. There’s nothing here that’s extraordinary or even somewhat licensed, but it’s a soothing collection of tunes that fit right in with your golf game. Take it for what it is.

Good On Your Own, But, Surprise, Better With Friends

Golf With Your Friends does let you get practice going solo on each of the 11 courses. But obviously, it’s built with multiplayer in mind; and if you get the right group going, you’ll have a blast.

All that’s missing is GLADoS.

Not only can you set up matches with others and play in realtime as you dominate the course, but you can also pick different options. Party Mode provides a nice twist on things with assorted power-ups to either help or harm your performance; and there are Basketball and Hockey modes that change up the rules slightly, forcing you to “dunk” the ball instead of just sinking it. These are worth trying out, provided you’ve got the right group willing to experiment with you. (Some people, surprisingly enough, just want to play a simple game of golf.)

Online performance is excellent with this game, as we had no problem getting into a match and enjoying it with others. The only downside is when you miss certain highlights. There’s no replay option of what the other players did. Again, fingers crossed we see something like this with a patch down the road.

And, yeah, we would’ve liked that course creator. It would’ve opened a lot of community doors with a game such as this. Hopefully, Team17 will give it consideration, as it’ll really open up the magic of what Golf is all about.

Hardly a Birdie, But It Gets Away With Par

While Golf With Your Friends isn’t quite the total package it is over on Steam, its arrival on consoles isn’t half bad. It really depends if you have friends that you’re willing to play with, hence the name. Single-player is okay, but the course design might be a bit much on you, especially in certain spots. But get some buddies together, and it’s easier to shrug off the shortcomings and just get your putts in. Besides, it’s not like we have many other golf games to play this summer, and you really can’t afford that golf cart rental fee, now can you?

RATING: 7/10

It has its issues, but Golf With Your Friends scores a solid par, especially in multiplayer.