Monthly Archives: January 2019

Smoke And Sacrifice (PS4)

sasOpen worlds and RPGs seem to be going hand-in-hand lately. A lot of game developers listened to their fan base and went the extra mile to offer complete freedom of choice within their games. Which stands to reason and is the case with Smoke and Sacrifice. But whereas most RPGs offering an open world aren’t that great in the story department, Smoke and Sacrifice really goes the extra mile!

You are playing as Sachi. The first time you meet her, she is ploughing the last piece of fertile ground within an icy wasteland. She is not the most cheerful heroine you’ve met, as the local law dictates that she must sacrifice her son to the sun tree, some sort of machine that keeps the darkness and monsters at bay as long as it is fed innocent children! With reluctance and regret, she sacrifices her child, only to discover a dark secret. Her child is still alive! Sachi plunges into the underworld her son was sent to. A life threatening world full of fantastic beasts and a deadly gas enveloping the surroundings. With the ever-looming smoke waiting to steal life and memory, will Sachi ever find her son?

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Smoke and Sacrifice is quite simple to grasp and play: you can go wherever you want to, as long as you have got the gear to take you there. Very comparable to survival games like Don’t Starve. You will soon learn how to process the items you find on the ground or within the remains of beaten enemies to make weapons, health items and protective gear. Be sure to take anything which is not bolted to the ground. You will be needing all of it! A lantern to dispell the darkness, an outfit to get through the icy wasteland, weapons to defeat exceedingly stronger enemies. So, where is the twist? How does Smoke and Sacrifice keep things fresh? Well, that’s the thing. It has nothing to do with fresh seeing that your whole inventory is in a continuous state of decay!

Everything and anything you find or make, will wear down slowly. The unseasoned adventurer will soon find him- or herself within the shocking grasp of the deadly smoke or beneath the hooves of the agitated porcupine on which his or hers last bludgeoning weapon was broken. Luckily, all the items you have found can be enhanced. Provided that you have discovered the recipes to do so. And as long as there is enough material to make things, you can create them to your heart’s content. And to the extent of your inventory, of course.

Item management is a big part of the gameplay. Sometimes you need to make item A and item B before item C can ever be conceived. But what if item C breaks and there is nothing near to fabricate the other two items? Well, that is where the warp points are for. They also transport you from an enemy infested area to a much safer one. Although ‘safe’ is not even near  a correct description. The underworld Sachi went to, is not for the faint of heart. And every once in a while, the lifeconsuming smoke envelops the world.

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Smoke and Sacrifice will keep busy for quite a while. This RPG with its open world, its narrative-driven quest and its system of creating and managing items is beyond innovative. The game constantly throws new and surprising challenges at you keeping you on your toes. Including puzzles and side quests. These quests are often limited to ‘slay that monster’, ‘make this item’ and ‘search these items’. Discovery is half the fun as you will often need to find out on your own which plants or enemies bring forth the items you need. If they are not speaking in riddles, the NPCs often offer the hints you need. After a while these fetch quest can bet a tad boring, though.

The game constantly forces you to keep on moving. Often you do not have time to discover the world as your whole inventory is constantly on the verge of dissapearing due to decay. No stress! Just collect anything which crosses your path and be sure to enchance or strengthen your woman-made items and you will be fine. Be sure to save often, lest you lose your progress!

 

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Smoke and Sacrifice is a beautifully hand-painted adventure where every character has their tale to tell. So, what is the catch? Well, some quests can get boring after a while and combat is not that great. You will often find yourself hitting the air instead of that angry mob. Made a few mistakes with that item management thing? Backtrack until you have got all the gear you need… again. Also, not quite game breaking but still a tad tedious: your health keeps on faltering if you are unlucky enough to get into a conversation while you are standing in a danger zone without any protection. This is a sure way to restart from the previous checkpoint. Hopefully this will get patched soon.

All in all you will get more than your money’s worth out of this game. Moreover, controls and HUD are quite good and intuitively developed. Compared to other games within the survival genre, you are better off with this game. Smoke and Sacrifice earns your attention. If not for its stunning visuals and intriguing story arc, then for the clever gameplay which – little by little – opens up a fantastic world you will want to explore.

Marco

99 Vidas (SWITCH)

99vidascovI like a good fight. Just a good kicking and punching ‘till someone drops down in defeat. I find it relaxing. Soulcleansing even.
Not for real, of course, but in a good beat ‘em up. A Double Dragon, or a Streets of Rage or Badstreet Brawler…. The classics from my youth get regularly dusted off and fed to the console. It goes without saying, that each time fresh blood appears, I’m over the moon.

An important artefact, the 99Vidas, was stolen by an evildoer. Using the artefact he can… Uhm… do more evil? I forgot the plot. Suffice to say it’s rather thin and unimportant. Let’s skip story and get straight to the important bit: fisticuffs!

 

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In 99Vidas players choose one of 6 playable characters. Each of these have their own special moves and abilities but the main goal stays the same: fight themselves a way through hordes of enemies and beat a boss at the end of each level. There’s no learning curve, just hop in kicking and punching.

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99 Vidas tries very hard to keep nostalgia lovers happy. The game spews forth 80’s and 90’s popculture references and is completely built in 16bit style… I soon forget I’m playing a modern game and I’m back on my bedroom floor clutching a controller in my hands.

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I’m having a blast with this retrostyled sidescrolling beat ‘em up. But at the same time I can’t help but wonder: maybe I’m the only one? Maybe there’s not a big market for retrostyled sidescrolling beat ‘em ups nowadays? Maybe the current generation of gamers thinks what I like is old and boring?

And then I realise:

I couldn’t care less.

And I happily continue beat ‘em upping!

Jan

The Meg

megcovYou know things took a nigh unrecoverable turn for the worst when you have to call Jason Statham to bail you out.
Which is exactly what happens to the crew of a marine biology research facility. Their scout sub has just breached the deepest point of the ocean, when an unseen thing attacks and strands them at an almost unreachable depth. The team is left with no option but call Jason, former deepsea rescue specialist-turned alcoholic after having lost two friends in a similar attack. The Stat reluctantly agrees, pulls off the rescue and discovers the unseen attacker is a Megalodon, a gigantic Jurassic shark thought extinct. The Meg follows to higher waters and suddenly the team is now faced with having to kill the beast before it causes mayhem.

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And there you have it. A plot that calls for mr. Statham to go head to head with a giant shark. I cozied up on the sofa, snacks on hand expecting to be entertained massively. Or at least enjoy the movie on the all too familiar “So bad it’s good”-level.
Neither of these happened.

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It’s a decent movie, don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed it, but not as much as I had expected. It has some things going for it, Statham being in the lead for one. The story is not really groundbreaking or pushing the boundaries, but decent enough and the effects are actually pretty good. Remember Jaws?  It’s like Jaws but just because of Jaws it fails to awe. Instead I’m left with a lingering “this reminds me of Jaws” thoughts in the back of my mind.
Constantly.
But even when you brush aside that “it’s been done before”-feeling, The Meg still fails to wow. Certain plotholes and some lackluster acting torpedo the movieship even harder.

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It’s a damn shame, because I was expecting so much more from The Meg. When speaking about the movie to a friend who’d already seen it, he summed up this entire review in just one sentence. “Oh ‘The Meg’? More like ‘The Meh’”.

Turns out he was right.

Jan