Undertale by Toby Fox is a genuinely creative and enjoyable RPG. Unreal Engine, CryEngine, Unity, RPGMaker (and, in this case, GameMaker) have made it much easier for indie developers to create games, but at the same time, much harder for them to stand out from the crowd. Undertale has no problems with that, however.
The basic backstory is explained thoroughly in the intro and on the website, but here's a quick recap: Undertale takes place in a world of two races – humans and "monsters" (a lot of them are pretty cute). At some point, the two fought a war that was easily won by the humans -- but now the year is 201X, and monsters have been sealed deep under Mount Ebott for ages. For some reason, you decide to climb the mountain and fall into the mouth of a deep cavern (to start your tale. Under it).
Windward ($15) is Tasharen Entertainment’s ode to Sid Meier’s Pirates!, inspired following a Meier GDC panel encouraging developers to reuse the elements of a game that they liked; Tasharen did just that.
Windward’s RPG, MMO, and real-time strategy elements are all wrapped-up in the knots of a sailing game. Players sail the seas of a randomly-generated map, controlling a single, upgradeable ship from an overhead view.
Deathtrap is a top-down tower defense game with action-RPG elements. Your hero is one of three classes – sorceress, mercenary, or marksman – who are each left alone to defend the world against creatures emanating from “chaos portals.” The portals are opening for the first time in thousands of years (et cetera, et cetera), unless you’re playing co-op, in which case you have some company.
The platformer genre is one that initially stood out as challenging, with titles like Metroid, Contra, and Pitfall. Eventually, it expanded to larger 3d worlds that developers enriched to offer more than just jumping from platform-to-platform. After that grew repetitive, the number of platformers in the AAA market began to dwindle. Fortunately, many 2D platformers have emerged from independent developers and are putting their unique twists on the genre.
I went into my review of Turtle Rock’s Evolve questioning how replayable a seemingly barebones multiplayer offering would be. I knew I wouldn’t be able to swap between several loadouts in-game or customize my character’s armor after each round. I also knew I would spend more time on tactical actions than head-on combat. Whether or not Evolve’s core experience would be rewarding and replayable after several hours as the various Hunter classes and Monsters was the main question I searched for to justify the game’s price-point of $60. (Quick aside: We benchmarked Evolve here, for those curious about which video cards are best for the game).
I’ve come out appreciating how the game strengthens its core experience and offers players the ability to do more with fewer tools than, for example, a Battlefield or Call of Duty game. Evolve offers rewards for trying out new ways of using its characters’ weapons and abilities, rather than tie players to class-specific roles in every detail. I’m still struggling to feel as rewarded with the Monsters as I am with the Hunters, but the game keeps encouraging me to take on that challenge. It’s a challenge few games provided in a multiplayer space, and it’s something that can appeal to noncompetitive audiences.
Telltale Games has a recent history of expanding existing games, film, and comic book franchises into episodic adventure games. The San Francisco studio has taken its formula from The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us and applied it to the Borderlands first-person-shooter series, spawning “Tales from the Borderlands” (TftB).
I had played part of Episode 1: Zero Sum at PAX Prime last August and enjoyed Telltale’s blend of original storywriting and comedic references to 2K’s IP. Tales from the Borderlands certainly gives us a break from the run-shoot-loot formula from 2k’s games, which we had gotten tired of with Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel.
Assassin’s Creed has taken us to some historical, exotic locations and introduced new gameplay varieties in each installment. The newest title, Assassin’s Creed Unity ($60), returns much of the gameplay focus to the original formula: stealth, well-timed combat, and puzzle solving.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag offered swordplay, dramatic naval combat, hunting, and deep-sea diving. AC IV provided a diversity of action in its open-world setting, resulting in a game rarely put down.
Anyone growing up in the earlier console era remembers the days of split-screen. Those were the same days that LAN play still existed – it's a strange thing to think that game developers have favored online play so heavily over local play that the latter has nearly ceased existing.
Back in those days of split-screen play, though, there was “screen looking” or “screen cheating:” The act of looking at your couch-neighbor's screen to determine their map location. Anecdotally, I recall the days when my friends became so aware of screen cheating that they'd look at the floor of the map to mitigate the impact of the act; we'd rely strictly on memory to navigate the map, hoping that the floor would be plain enough to disallow screen cheat advantage.
The existence of “virtual laziness” is either profound commentary on the degradation of human nature or an example of poor game design. We've discussed it before: Laziness developing within games is common, especially where backtracking or repetitious, unnecessary combat inhibit actual exploration of the game's world and story.
It's tough not to be hard on oneself when the prospect of holding “w” for a few minutes – because walking across a moon's surface requires shockingly little use of “s” – becomes too much to bear. It's too much work, too far to walk, and that pit of lava is looking rather inviting right now.
Our experience with Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel (BLPS) began with innocent GPU benchmarking, but struck enough of a chord to warrant a full review. This is in similar fashion to our Watch_Dogs experience. After hours of enduring backtracking, dull character progression, a lack of motivating storytelling, juvenile jokes, and forced, mind-numbingly boring traversal of desolate environments, we're here with the review: Borderlands is boring.