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Average User Score: 8.5Apr 23, 2017Nier is a genuine masterpiece that defies conventional expectations and design norms. While not flawless, Nier is undeniably a work of artNier is a genuine masterpiece that defies conventional expectations and design norms. While not flawless, Nier is undeniably a work of art that is greater than the sum of its parts. With a wide variety of gameplay styles, a remarkably well-written story with incredibly deep characters, and a memorable sound track complete with a proprietary language, Nier is a definite contender for Game of the Year awards.
PlatinumGames, while not known for deep complexity in their combat systems, have still managed to form a brand for themselves in the past few years thanks to big successes such as Metal Gear Rising and Bayonetta 2. Their heavily-stylized "character action" game design fits perfectly into the anime-esque world of Nier: Automata: characters swing and throw teleporting greatswords twice their size with ease, slow down time to teleport-dodge enemy attacks, and run with an acceleration that feels like a 2-legged racing game. This also extends into the flight sequences, where you command a transforming airplane mecha with a moveset not dissimilar to your grounded counterparts. While the ground combat is even more simplistic than MGR (you can often just hold the "light attack" button [while dodging] to auto-combo normal enemies), there is such a huge variety of gameplay that you never get bored. Flight combat, hacking sequences, creative use of locked camera angles, and even mini-VNs all break up the hack 'n' slash to create what is probably the most creative mainstream "AAA" game in the past two console gens.
It's hard to talk about how good the writing in Nier is without spoilers. To put it simply, Nier is broken into two parts, each being played across two characters. One character, who surprisingly becomes the focal point of the story, has a gradual mental health degradation which even the game's support characters make it a point to notice. Most Japanese media seems to take characters who are "supposed" to be evil and has them instantly snap under pressure, typically caused by one traumatic event like a loved one dying. This game's character goes from a happy-go-lucky straight shooter and suffers multiple depressing events that I felt affected me more than him at times. His decline into insanity isn't a simple breaking point but a good dozen hours of misery that was so well written that it became the main driving force of the story. While replaying portions of the game again as a different character can become tedious, their story line splits provide a fresh look at each character and the main story itself.
So many great ideas and designs are incorporated into Nier: Automata that its hard to cover all of them in a simple written review. Nier frequently defies player expectations, creatively breaks the fourth wall, paints a rich sci-fi lore with excellent world-building, and leaves enough room to fill in the blanks with your imagination that I expect a fanbase similar to Undertale to crop up around it. Nier is the best game I've played since The Witcher 3 in July 2015. Hopefully it receives the attention it deserves because games like this are really once a gen masterpieces.… Expand
Average User Score: 8.2Feb 26, 2017The gameplay, from the satisfying weapons to the excellent level design, is top notch. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of New Order and theThe gameplay, from the satisfying weapons to the excellent level design, is top notch. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of New Order and the few parts that did make me rage were just because of the difficulty spike from playing on Hard (and the fact that I'm a big baby). All of the voice acting, sound effects, music, and graphical stylization create an engaging atmosphere that feels part action movie and part comic book with enough sentimentality and gameplay variance to avoid being shoehorned into either's stereotypes completely. While things do get a bit too ridiculous at times that it's hard to stifle your laughter (the last quarter of the game is Jewish Super-Science vs. Nazi Super-Science), the majority of the game is so sternly constructed that you feel compelled to continue just to follow the characters and storyline (shocking considering this game's iD roots). Overall this is a masterfully constructed FPS game that shys just short of being too modernized or too cinematic. I heartily recommend picking this up even if you only play through it once.… Expand
Average User Score: 6.4Feb 5, 2017If you own a mobile device and enjoy CCGs, you've probably played Hearthstone at some point. I quickly grew frustrated with it after a fewIf you own a mobile device and enjoy CCGs, you've probably played Hearthstone at some point. I quickly grew frustrated with it after a few hours due to many, many cards choosing not only random targets but sometimes random damage and random effects. Thankfully Cygames came along and improved on Blizzard's design decisions with Shadowverse. Although it isn't perfect, this is currently my CCG of choice because of the smooth cross-platform play, simple yet engaging game design choices, and the generous free-to-play elements.
I've stuck with Shadowverse for so long compared to Hearthstone because of how much they've improved on the formula by simply cutting back on RNG and narrowing the power levels of cards. At first I was a bit shocked to see that you can only have five cards total in play at any time; however, as I played more classes I realized that many cards are actually balanced around this. You will almost never see a card in another CCG that says "Summon X of Y until the battlefield is full". The majority of cards let you choose targets, provide exact numbers, and have clearly defined interactions while still managing to fit in voice acting and flavor text for both the normal & evolved versions of each cards. This is the first mobile CCG I've played that is actually engaging & robust enough to feel like an actual card game.
Being a collectible card game, you'd expect some heavy-handed "P2W" elements. Coming from Magic: The Gathering, where non-rotating decks can easily cost over $500, I was pleasantly surprised to see how cheap individual boosters are, how easily you can craft the cards you need to make a cohesive deck, and how many freebees the devs hand out. You have dailies which reward in-game currency for simple tasks like winning matches, a daily login reward system which doesn't penalize "missing" days (and refreshes instantly after cycling instead of cycling once a month like most mobile games), and free booster handouts for major events like tournaments and new expansions. If you do choose to spend money on boosters, you are incentivized to log in daily to purchase a booster for 50 crystals (which comes to $0.99 if purchased on impulse).
I also have many more hours on Shadowverse than shown on Steam because of how smooth the cross-platform play is. All devices are linked through your Cygames account and share the same clean UI which, although slightly clunky because of no scaling on PC, makes the game very easy to pick up and play on my PC, phone, and tablet. This is probably the first CCG I've played where having a match run away from me hadn't made me rage because I was too comfortable lying on my couch swiping animated cards on my tablet.
Of course, nothing is perfect and Shadowverse has its share of problems created by new design decisions that I'm afraid will never be addressed. At the start of each match, there is a "coin toss" to decide who goes first without a chance to pass. Of course, if there were an option to pass, almost everyone would given the huge advantage the second player has. From a MTG perspective, going first is advantageous for aggressive decks because (although you don't draw) you can play and attack first. In Shadowverse though the person going first still draws but the person going second draws twice and gets an extra evolution point. What's an evolution point? One of the new gameplay mechanics Cygames added is the ability to "evolve" your cards: each follower can be transformed with additional stats and occasionally new triggers. In my opinion these two bonuses give a huge advantage to the second player which is unwarranted considering how bad 1-drops are.
Being a Japanese game, there are also huge card balancing issues: like most CCGs, there are individual cards that are powerful enough to shift the meta and create a miserable conveyor belt of netdecks ready to steamroll you. Typically cards like these will get banned or balanced but so far there has been no action taken against obvious offenders. In fact, the devs have gone so far to say they don't think these cards are causing problems despite what you hear from high ranking players in both the Steam & official forums. Even without the meta-warping cards, all classes have a few cards which define their archetypes's build paths, creating a barrier for entry when trying to play a different class than the one you've spent all your vials on.
For now, I am cautiously optimistic for Shadowverse's future. Hopefully Cygames wakes up and acknowledges some of the issues and either creates a ban list for ranked or a Standard format to cycle out cancerous cards. In my opinion, this is currently the best mobile and best digital CCG available and I would recommend it for newcomers to the genre and veterans alike.… Expand
Average User Score: 7.8Nov 17, 2016Madness takes digital form in your quest to grind your brains out in Darkest Dungeon. On the surface, you will find elements of cityMadness takes digital form in your quest to grind your brains out in Darkest Dungeon. On the surface, you will find elements of city management, a complex party system that requires you to balance not only classes but their post-spelunking ailments and illnesses, multiple tilesets with a variety of bosses that require different strategies, and a bevy of trinkets and baubles with equally weighted good and bad stats. All these elements (despite the RNG) combine into an enjoyable experience for the first dozen or so hours.
All this is fun and games until you clear the first boss for each dungeon and the problems with randomness and luck really show their ugly faces. RNG holds every gameplay aspect of DD in it's iron grip; from miserable combat accuracy (for both you and the enemy), interacting with curios, suffering from permanent debuffs, and even being able to run from battle are all randomized. I love board & card games so I'm used to rolling dice and suffering for it but when the entire game is determined by luck it gets infuriating. Imagine playing Monopoly: you land on an unowned property only to have to roll dice to determine if you can buy it, roll again to determine if you can put a house on it, and then your opponents get to roll when they land on it to determine if they have to pay you. Every step is a roll of the dice (not even counting traps) with your characters gaining stress randomly while walking and sometimes forcing you to interact with obviously bad curios because of a permanent trait they have.
Of course, RNG can always be brute forced because this is a video game and anyone who has played an RPG before knows how to brute force any kind of difficulty: grinding. In order to beat anything above the first tier of bosses, you are expected to have the best gear possible on all your characters in order for them to survive. With a max roster size of 28, characters running away or suffering from multiple crippling ailments, and permadeath (because why not?), you're looking at spending several hours grinding "easy" dungeons in the hope of bringing back some cash without your party suffering from any more permanent debuffs or dying. Near the end of the game, losing a max level key party member can spell the end of your progression and send you back to the grind mines. Since launch, they added the ability to upgrade your recruiter to occasionally bring you higher level recruits, but this also requires grinding up multiple buildings just to have the chance at buying non-unleveled heroes.
These are all complaints about how the game was "meant" to be playing though. Through the options menu you can choose to mitigate some of the RNG but it still leaves a lot to be desired. Most of the miserable elements above aren't covered in the menu and removing & replacing them would completely change the game. I don't hate the individual elements that bring this game down but when combined it just feels like Darkest Dungeon despises the player and is actively trying to stop you from playing it. I'm sure the devs thought this was some kind of clever meta-torture based on the Lovecraftian horrors you run into but I didn't find it amusing. There will be a small, masochistic audience that will sink their teeth into this and grind it for hundreds of hours (only 1.3% of the people who have bought it on Steam have beaten it, including SAM users) but for the average person I would not recommend it.… Expand
Average User Score: tbdOct 16, 2016With the constant deluge of generic indie coin-collecting platformers the video game market in general has been drowning in for the pastWith the constant deluge of generic indie coin-collecting platformers the video game market in general has been drowning in for the past decade or so now, it was pleasant to play a fresh breath of the mostly forgotten sub-genre of the action sidescrolling platformer again with Seraph. While I enjoyed the majority of the game, I cannot recommend it because of the poor level design, an inability to backtrack or grind, and the monumental difficulty spike with the last boss.
Akin to 2D shooters of old like Abuse and the original Duke Nukem, Seraph is about shooting your way from one side of a level to another while unlocking some doors and grabbing ammo along the way. To put it simply, this is essentially a 2D "FPS" game with full auto-aim: Seraph requires you to focus on dodging attacks and performing acrobatics to transverse a level instead of gathering rings or saving animals. This auto-aim system helps create a more cinematic experience by greatly increasing the combat speed and encouraging flashy movement instead of spending time every enemy counter mouse aiming. However, this is often detrimental to long range combat and against faster enemies; you will often find yourself being required to be point-blank to get shots in despite having no melee system against mostly melee opponents. Several abilities also require you to be close-range for them to trigger or work properly which feels more like an intentional concession to the auto-aim rather than adding variety to the combat system. All problems aside, the combat is mostly good and is unique enough alone to make this worth playing.
Sadly, no amount of good combat can salvage a game with miserable level design. Being a modern indie game means Seraph has procedurally generated levels which it of course doesn't do well. If I didn't know better I'd think the devs only made 5 unique rooms, flipped them, added some connectors, and threw them into a randomizer. You can add a new coat of paint with a few different tilesets but its painfully obvious that no one cared about the level design when you see the same rooms every level (with each level taking about ~5 mins to finish!). Some of the larger maps I actually got lost in and wished there was a map function (not because of any maze-like level design but because everything looked the same!). I would've really preferred fewer hand-made maps than the mess of random junk maps this poor game received instead.
As the difficulty rose and I struggled to finish the last few maps, I really wished I had some way of backtracking to level up my "account" more. Again, being an indie game in 2016, this game has a system comparable to permadeath with no level select option. Dying in this will set you back to your most recent checkpoint which, not only can be several maps prior, but also interrupts the storyline flow by making you replay map's intro & outro dialogue. The only real way to grind up your character's permanent stats is by doing daily quests and survival missions on the leaderboards. While it's a nice attempt to create a community, a once per day challenge that only pays out once the challenge is closed isn't very conductive towards reaching goals with your character's growth.
Why would you need to grind in a sidescrolling platformer? I didn't feel the need to until I reached the last boss which was an absolute nightmare. Playing on a seemingly average difficulty of 5.5 (I got downgraded several times from dying on the last maps), it took me probably 3 of my 9 hours of game time on Seraph to beat him. A combination of fast-tracking homing shots, teleporting full body-sized AoEs, a PBAoE on the boss that is larger than his hitbox (and pops up when you get close to him), and heavy randomization on both numbers of shots and time between shots makes this a bullethell boss without access to bombs. I was ready to uninstall several times because no build or weapon type seemed to work. As far as I can tell, I just got lucky with the volleys he decided to fire the time I beat him. A truly miserable experience that is further unsatisfying by the cut-to-credits ending.
Overall, Seraph is a decent game. There are unique concepts here and a real effort at lore & world-building despite being a simple auto-aim shooter. I want to recommend this because I enjoyed most of the game but I can't because of the apparent traps of modern indie game design. Helmed by a more competent developer I imagine this could've been GOTY material; Instead, Seraph is just another indie platformer but with guns and demons instead of coins and cute animals.… Expand
Average User Score: 8.7Jul 1, 2016This is the first game in a very long time where I actually dreaded the bosses. An excellently atmospheric Assassin's Creed-esque adventureThis is the first game in a very long time where I actually dreaded the bosses. An excellently atmospheric Assassin's Creed-esque adventure game held back by cookie cutter play-by-the-numbers recycled boss fights and a predictable game structure. Its a real shame that the bosses are so phoned in because its the only thing keeping this game from being excellent. I'd highly recommend picking this up as long as you don't expect anything from the bosses going into them (I actually yelled at my computer at how lazily they were designed at one point).
+Incredible attention to detail in all aspects of the game
+Non-linear world that feels packed with things to do
+Very fluid combat that is actually challenging on Hard
+"Puzzle rooms" that don't involve pushing boxes
+Balances stealth, combat, and platforming enjoyably
+Crams in as much Batman lore as possible while keeping enough of it optional
+Everything with Scarecrow
-Incredibly bad (lazy) bosses
-Sometimes feels like "Adventures in Crawling in Vents & Kicking Grates: Batman Edition"… Expand
Average User Score: 7.7Mar 13, 2016Part rhythm game, part dungeon crawler, Crypt of the NecroDancer is a well-excuted and original concept that marries its inspirationsPart rhythm game, part dungeon crawler, Crypt of the NecroDancer is a well-excuted and original concept that marries its inspirations effectively without sacrificing too much from either genre. While it doesn't dig too deep into either genre's traits, if you enjoy rhythm games or dungeon crawlers you will find something to like here (if you can look past its flaws).
The meat of the gameplay revolves around spelunking through four zones of four stages each, with the first three having a small pool of possible bosses at the end. By keeping with the rhythm of the track and timing your actions to the beat, you are rewarded with a multiplier bonus that increases your gold pickups (and which later on enhances some equipment). While this is very important exploring the first two zones (especially as a new player because your loot pool will be low), zone 3 becomes extremely hectic with very aggressive monsters, lots of damage traps, and higher base gold pickups. The coin multiplier is useless except for gear once you reach Zone 4 because the gold pickups are so large that you can ignore it completely outside of combat. This seems to go against the design decision of adding rhythm elements and makes the game feel more like a barebones mobile-esque experience instead of DDR with swords. This might change with other characters (of which there are 10 to choose from), but the zones felt very similar in terms of game design when playing with Melody and Cadence for me.
Even though the game only has 16 (randomized) floors, you have a great deal of customization options from the level select hub. Different characters completely change how the game plays; a monk who dies from touching gold, a bard who ignores the rhythm and turns the game into a turn-based crawler, and a miner with infinite kickable bombs are some examples of how the gameplay can be radically modified. CotN is also completely playable with a dance pad because everything is controlled with the arrow keys! This alone gives it my "Best One-Handed Game" award for 2015. A level editor and a seeded All Zones Mode are also included for enthusiasts.
Overall, Crypt of the NecroDancer is a superbly unique experience that is cheap enough that anyone who has played DDR should dust off their dance pad for. While it isn't the deepest rogue-like or the hardest rhythm game, there is enough content included to sink your teeth into for at least a dozen hours.… Expand
Average User Score: 8.3Oct 25, 2015Pillars of Eternity is a good CRPG that feels held back by a bland story and combat that gets easier and tactically simplier as the gamePillars of Eternity is a good CRPG that feels held back by a bland story and combat that gets easier and tactically simplier as the game progresses. There is plenty of content to explore (including a personal castle to upgrade and a deep dungeon to explore for fancy loot, room for actual roleplaying with extensive dialogue options, and unique classes that alone are enough to make me want to replay the game) but the majority of it is too similar to previous games in the genre to really stand out on its own. While I love Obsidian, this repurposing of old ideas and design choices just doesn't feel like the dream project it was supposed to be.
PoE gives you plenty of important decisions to make and lets you know every chance it can that these decisions matter. However, one very important sequence of events near the halfway point in the game in particular stood out in breaking that illusion. At one point you reach a crossroads between two factions, one of which you previously sided with. Various speech options let you continue to side with them or roleplay other options. However, the Big Bad shows his face and spits on your decisions, making your previous questing and choices moot. It is very frustrating to play through because you're just stuck there watching it play out with no input on what is happening, only to suffer the consequences later. Something more cryptic happening off-screen during these events would've been better writing and would've had the same effect without being so frustrating to play through.
The end boss also feels very contrived and added for the sake of having a last boss for a video game. Most of the game you're chasing him and always 2 steps behind him and yet in this last bastion he decides to face you face-to-face. I feel like he was supposed to be an Irenecus clone but he comes off feeling whiny and shoehorned. I would've really preferred pushing him and the "twist" leading up to the final area into a sequel or expansion because it really detracts from the rest of the game.
While I enjoyed my time with PoE, I find it hard to recommend. Overall, it felt quite bland and dry compared to CRPGs of old with only the few unique classes and the deep character interactions really standing out to me. If you've played CRPGs before and are on the fence about this, try a pillar of the genre such as Baldur's Gate 2 or Icewind Dale before dropping cash on this.… Expand
Average User Score: 7.5Sep 26, 2015A mixed bag that attempts to build on the strengths of the original but seems to struggle against its own design. I love how much larger theA mixed bag that attempts to build on the strengths of the original but seems to struggle against its own design. I love how much larger the new maps are but that is also one of the games biggest issues; Much of the game is spent shift-looking far ahead of you to line up the perfect shot while hiding behind cover because a missed shot means a counter-shot from off screen can kill you. Too many of the maps were a complete joke with you spamming walls of shotgun fire off screen in the hopes of killing stuff (and actually succeeding) and rewarding you with a huge combo or punishing you with a bullet in the back from off screen. I guess rooms made out of entirely glass were popular in the 80s because there are also tons of windows this time around, meaning enemies from outside of your vision can shoot to kill from multiple rooms away. Melee is usually an option but with long corridors and tons of breakable windows its often unrealistic to melee everything everytime.
If the game was in a different engine (with some kind of first person option) or had a zoom feature I would've really loved this and it would've felt like a significant improvement over the original. New characters, bigger levels, more weapons, and a psychedelic story are great and all, but when the core gameplay is this frustrating and unwieldy it is difficult to recommend. If you enjoyed the original its worth picking up but I wouldn't recommend it for newcomers to the series despite being completely seperate from the original (outside of lore).… Expand
Average User Score: 7.8Sep 13, 2015This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Full review too large for Metacritic. Visit my Steam profile at /id/verticalcleave for more, including a breakdown of the pros and cons of MGS5.
For a game that was supposed to bridge the gap between the original Metal Gear games and the MGS series's later titles, there is very little storytelling or character development here. The only character with real growth is Huey, who is a piece of trash that you (and everyone in the game) grows to hate. Sure, Huey might be the best written character in the series, but it doesn't excuse how everyone else is fueled by revenge and has their arc concluded with revenge. There are also few cutscenes, with most of the meat of the story being told through Codec calls- *ahem* -I mean, cassette tapes. The game also takes a sharp turn from GZ's tone, with Skull Face going from being a creepy, mysterious horror one step ahead of you to being a caricature of a bond villain (who exposes his whole scheme to you during an awkwardly long caravan ride to his "real" base). The worst part is a lot of the story is repeated; you seem to be expected to listen to all of the cassette tapes to get the full story (imagine how bad previous games would've been if you were expected to pay attention to every non-critical Codec call!) and yet the conversations on them are often repeated or paraphrased during the main game! The game also fails to conclude all of its threads appropriately; most notoriously, a cut Mission 51 has shown up on Youtube which concludes a cliffhanger that happens in the middle of Chapter 2. The fact that such an important mission was left undone makes me think that this game was unfinished and rushed out the door, despite being in development for a supposed 5 years.
There is a lot that could be nitpicked about this game but the biggest issue I have with it is the story. The MGS games have always been known for their story, with lengthy cutscenes and frequent Codec calls crafting a believable parallel world to ours. Snake (despite being voiced by Jack Bauer) is almost a silent protagonist in 5, who doesn't respond to radio communications (the replacement for Codec calls) or even talk to non Diamond Dog characters outside of Mother Base. Even during the ridiculous caravan ride with Skull Face he doesn't say a word during Skull Face's exposition. Snake had some ridiculous writing in the past (often repeating lines and adding a question mark on the end to comical effect) but it makes no sense for him to play the mute during key story points. I understand that Kojima wanted players to insert themselves as Snake this time around... But isn't that what players have always done in this series? People wanted to play as Big Boss and watch his descent into madness as advertised, not play as a silent body double. This might've been an attempt to reproduce the twist that Kojima created with Raiden in MGS2; however, that twist was acceptable because it happened near the beginning of the game. This game's twist just seems like a big "screw you" to the fans. All of this is on top of Kojima's obnoxious handwavium of choice, VOCAL CHORD PARASITES, which have effectively replaced MGS4's nanomachines as being the cause and effect for everything supernatural that happens.
MGS5 could've been a good game had it ended with Chapter 1, could've been a great game with better writing, and could've been an amazing game with more series staples (more & better bosses, more (!) cutscenes, more character development). Things might change in the future; Konami might just be holding out on later chapters to milk the player base for DLC money (MB coins are already disgustingly distorting the singleplayer experience). As it currently stands, I'm going to get everything I can out of this game because its money already spent and its decently playable. However, because of all the glaring issues previously mentioned, plus broken online components such as MGO3 being delayed to January 2016 while consoles get it Oct. 6th and FOBs being invadable while offline, I cannot recommend this game to anyone. Both MGR and even the "paid demo" Ground Zeroes were honestly better Metal Gear Solid games than this embarrassing train wreck of game.… Expand