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

Ori and the Will of the Wisps Xbox One review: there’s a way

Five years ago – to the day, mind you – that the original Ori and the Blind Forest came out for Xbox One, Moon Studios has returned with Ori and the Will of the Wisps. We’ve been looking forward to this one for a while, if only because of the pure majesty and bliss that the original game provided. Imagine excelling that particular game in a number of areas, with more gameplay, more challenges and more tranquil beauty than we could ever expect from our Xbox One console (or Windows PC if you want to take that route). Lo and behold, that’s just what the team has done because this is easily one of the best games of the year.

This adventure once again puts players in control of a white guardian spirit, and although we won’t go into too much detail, there’s a new owl character that ties in with the character’s destiny. Where it goes from here is up to you, as you journey through the game’s massive Metroidvania-esque environments. And if you thought the original Ori was something, hang on to your dream cap, because this one is even bigger.

One of the many visual moments that will blow Ori fans away.

Exploring in Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a thing of majesty. You’ll break through walls, drop down into lower platforms, and encounter dangerous foes as you make your way across the map. You can easily pause the game and see where you are, and where you’ll need to go next, so there’s never an issue of getting lost. Surviving, however, is a completely different story.

You’ll die a lot in Ori and the Will of the Wisps, but it’s in an educational way, as you overcome traps and adversaries and continue on your quest. Moon Studios has balanced out the save points tremendously, as they kick in automatically this time, instead of you feeling the need to activate checkpoints manually. This goes a long way in inspiring you to continue your adventure.

The platforming in Ori and the Will of the Wisps is better than ever. Along with the ability to double jump and climb up walls, the heroic guardian can also unleash attacks, including a stylish slash that can cut through most objects with ease. There are other abilities you’ll pick up as well, adding depth to the overall game and really making you feel that sense of progression – even over what the original release previously offered.

Oh, and there’s challenge aplenty here. The chase sequences within the game have multiplied tremendously, from escaping a deadly tidal wave to overcoming other perils that come your way. These make the waterfall from the original game look like a simple whirlpool. However, once you figure things out, you’ll master these sequences with ease and continue on your breathtaking journey. 

Moon Studios has injected Ori and the Will of the Wisps with inspired, precise gameplay. You’ll never run into any platforming woes here – unless you suck at it, of course – and find each move coming off perfectly. Sure, there’s a higher sense of difficulty, but Ori challenges you to overcome these odds with your newfound sense of moves. They’re really something and give you even more control over the hero than ever before. Now that’s how you move forward with a sequel.

What’s more, you can implement different abilities with your character, such as perks that give you the ability to increase your power with attacks, decrease damage taken, suck up gems left behind enemies and more. You can equip up to three of these at a time, and mix things up so things never get dull. You’ll spend hours on end implementing new changes and seeing just what they can do for you.

You’ll need them, too, because, oh, boy, are the bosses a handful. Not only are they imaginative, but also incredibly brutal. But that said, the checkpoint system makes things more than fair; and once you figure out a pattern, you’ll be on your merry little way.

Seriously, this game looks too good.

The game will take a good amount of time to get through, thanks to all the hidden goodies, perks and more. In fact, we probably spent more time with Ori and the Will of the Wisps than we do with most traditional Metroidvania games. That’s saying something.

Not to mention truly stunning visuals that you’ll see along the way. The game is filled with striking backgrounds, moody and atmospheric lighting, and razor-sharp animation that doesn’t let up in the least. And the loading is just the right speed as well, so you don’t have to wait too long to jump back in. Likewise, the soundtrack is epic, with enough wonderful melodies that play right along with each gameplay sequence. There’s not a dull one in the bunch. The voice work and sound effects work incredibly well, too.

There’s barely anything dull about Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Newbies might find themselves frustrated in certain parts; but, really, the game provides more than enough chances to excel. And it does so with a wondrous presentation that goes miles beyond the original, especially with its imaginative, gorgeous design. Throw in gameplay that keeps changing around every corner, and you have an adventure that’s got a mighty spirit.

If you played the original Ori, you should jump into Will of the Wisps with little hesitation. And even if you haven’t, you shouldn’t miss this journey into the magical forest. It’ll entrance you.

RATING: 9.5/10

A bold experience that outperforms the original Ori game, and one of the year’s finely polished releases.