Nerd Fuel: Laughing Man – Hugh’s Blend

My favorite thing about reviewing coffee is seeking out and trying new flavors and varieties. A while back I reviewed a number of coffees by Hugh Jackman’s Laughing Man coffee company. Well, he’s back with a new offering; Hugh’s Blend. I came across a box a couple weeks ago during a shopping trip with my wife and I snatched it up immediately. With the exception of their Ethiopian brew, Laughing Man has produced some of the best K-Cups I’ve come across yet. I was elated to see something new from them on the shelf.

This brew is a blend of South American coffees done at a medium roast. During the brewing process it gives off a rich and pleasant aroma. The flavor is an odd mix of mild fruitiness – that’s actually a bit tart. But it also has a sweet cookie or graham cracker twist to it. It’s also a bit more bitter than I expected from a medium roast. But this was nothing drastic and was easily tamed with a little bit of extra cream. The flavors in this blend are unique, but they do not stand out very much. Overall it’s a decent everyday blend.

Compared to Laughing Man’s other blends, I feel that this one takes a backseat to the Duane St. Blend. But, I did enjoy it a bit more than Dukale’s Blend. It’s a very drinkable coffee and one of undeniable quality. But, I have a hard recommending it over their other offerings. If you like your coffee with faint sweet and fruity notes, it might be worth picking up a box and judging this one for yourself.

Score: 3 out of 4

Would Purchase again?: Maybe. This is a decent coffee but it doesn’t offer enough to stand out on its own when compared to so many other options. It’s certainly worth a look, but it’s not one of my favorites.

Review: Deep Space Waifu

It’s Valentine’s Day! And I’ve decided to start a new tradition on this blog. A few years back, I posted a Valentine’s Day review of a flirty little game called Hunie Pop. I did this as sort of a one-off joke. But due to the recent upswing in indie H-games on Steam and the fact that all of my friends insist on gifting me with embarrassing purchases just so they can point to my game library and laugh, I’ve decided to embrace it and review this ridiculous games on Valentine’s day.

When it comes to “questionable” games, I really didn’t know where to start. As mentioned above, I already reviewed Hunie Pop. Which, despite it’s lewd nature, actually featured some pretty solid gameplay. Then back in the summer of last year, I shared a review of the dumpster fire that is Dragonia. Yeah… Let’s not even talk about that. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to top Dragonia. So for this review, I decided to go with a game that had the most absurd title possible. I wanted to find something both descriptive and cringeworthy. Well, I didn’t have to look hard. As soon as I saw the name “Deep Space Waifu”, I knew this would be the game for 2018.

Deep Space Waifu is technically a schmup. Some might even call it a bullet-hell style game. But, I’m not sure it quite fits that description. The gameplay will certainly be familiar to fans of the genre. But it includes the added mechanic of having to also destroy certain “environmental” features along with just enemies. (And by environmental features I mean, blasting the clothes off of crudely drawn anime girls).

You see, in this game, you play a character known as “King Bear”. King Bear hooks up with random girls that he meets on Space Tinder. He then takes that girl on a date. The goal of the game is to have as successful of a date as possible. But every date is sabotaged by random aliens. Completing a date means that you have to blast aliens from the back of your flying motorcycle until a Boss shows up, then you blow the Boss to smithereens. The success level of your date is determined by the percentage of “environmental damage” you have done… Upon completing a date with a rating of 100%, you then unlock what is essentially Easy Mode for that level… (you’ll see what I mean if you play).  As you progress through the stages, you will unlock new special weapons and attacks.  It’s really quite simple.

When this game was first released, it was pretty rough. The artwork was cheap looking, and the controls were pretty wonky. However, the title has received numerous updates since it debuted on Steam. Each of them improving nearly every aspect of the game. At this point, it’s actually a very polished product. The game can be played using either a keyboard, mouse-only or with a controller. But, having tried all three, I highly recommend the mouse-only mode. There’s really no reason to try anything else. Being a mature title, the Steam version of the game is censored. But the developer has released a patch that restores the game to its original form for users who are ambitious enough to go looking for it.

The main game is pretty short and can easily be completed in under an hour. At the time of this writing, there are two forms of DLC for the game. The first is called the Academy Expansion. This bit of DLC adds some additional dates with sports-themed girls to the main game. There’s also a standalone expansion (basically a separate game) called Flat Justice. Add them all together, and you end up with a decent sized game.

The Flat Justice expansion is actually more like a sequel than a piece of downloadable content. In this version, we learn that King Bear is actually a cop. He is tasked with rooting out corruption in the police force. To do so, he must go undercover and date several suspects from among his own unit until he finds the mole that is working with the enemy.  This version of the game actually attempts to craft some form of a plotline by adding cutscenes in between levels and tacking on insanely inappropriate names and art designs for end bosses.

To say that this is a niche-game is an understatement. On it’s surface it seems only to appeal to lonely weeabos. But fans of shoot-em ups may actually get a bit a fun out of it too. I certainly received way more entertainment from this game than I expected to. The gameplay is very well done, the graphics are colorful, and the humor is over-the-top. This is a game that doesn’t take itself very seriously. The whole thing is really one big joke. It’s a bit like renting a really bad horror movie – It’s terrible but in a good way.

I’m ashamed to admit that I gave this game and it’s expansions as much attention as I did. I’m even more ashamed to admit that if the developer releases an future content updates, I’m likely to add them to my library as well.

So, if you ARE a lonely otaku looking for your waifu… perhaps you should consider one of the deep space variety.

Difficulty: Easy –  Even though this could be considered a “bullet-hell” game. It is EXTREMELY casual. It is very possible for most players to fly through this game and it’s expansions with relative ease. The difficulty does increase a bit as your progress through the different levels. But not by much. The real challenge lies in playing the game in “Gentlemen Mode”. With this option enabled, you want to avoid to any environmental damage at all… but even with this added challenge, the game is still pretty simplistic.

Story: Yeah… you’re a space bear trying to hook up with space chicks. Then, suddenly you’re a cop doing the same thing in the name of justice… If a thought provoking plotline is what you’re looking for, you won’t find it in a game called Deep Space Waifu.

Originality: This is a tough call. While overhead schumps have been done to death, this game adds a pervy twist with a retro/anime feel. It’s an odd combination that somehow manages to keep this game feeling like something you’ve never seen before.

Soundtrack: High praises here! The soundtrack is arguably the best thing about this game. This is especially true for the Flat Justice expansion. Nearly the entire game features music by an artist called Funny Death. This is a musical artist I had never heard of until I played this game. But I have since purchased their entire discography. The music is best described as retro/synth-pop with a bit of a foreign flair. It’s absolutely phenomenal and it fits in well with this quirky game.

Fun: As much as I hate to admit this, Deep Space Waifu is a fun game. It’s not because of the risque art, but the game itself is just downright entertaining. And the silly aspect of the whole thing only adds to the level of enjoyment.

Graphics: When this game first hit the scene, it looked pretty bad, to be honest. But it has since received an overhaul and it’s actually a good looking title these days. Much of the art work is hand-drawn, the rest are rendered in a retro-style that sparks nostalgia and overall good vibes.

Playcontrol: As mentioned in the above review, Mouse-only mode is the way to go. Playing this game with a controller is probably your second best option. But on more than one occasion, I’ve found some issues with responsiveness when using that method. Playing with a keyboard is possible, but not recommended.

Downloadable Content: YES– This game currently features two add-ons. One is a proper expansion, the second is a stand-alone title.

Mature Content: YES. This is a game that focuses on adult situations and inappropriate humor. Enemy names are puns for various body parts, etc. Even though the Steam version of the game is censored, it is still at it’s core pornographic in nature. This is not one for children.

Value:  The main game and the Flat Justice expansion are $2.00 each. The Academy DLC is sold for $0.69. So, you can obtain the entire collection for under $3.00. That is simply a steal. The game is also often found on sale for even cheaper than that.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – Deep Space Waifu is a playable joke. It’s not meant to be taken seriously at all. With that in mind and considering the price point, I have to admit that most players will get a good amount of entertainment from this title. However, the adult nature of the game will limit its audience. This is a bit of a shame, as the game itself does have some really good qualities.

Available on: Steam

Explore/Create – Richard Garriott

 

It’s been a little while since I posted a book review that wasn’t Star Wars related. In fact, I think my last one was a review of Stephen King’s Carrie back in November of last year. So, this time I wanted to change things up a bit and discuss an autobiography that I finished a few months ago: Explore/Create by Richard Garriott.

Richard Garriott is an American video game developer and entrepreneur. He is best known as the creator of the legendary Ultima games, a series of classic RPGs for the personal computer. He is also lesser known for being a private astronaut and all-around adventurer.

Even though I’ve not really discussed it on this site before, I’ve been a lifelong fan of the Ultima series. In fact, starting next month, I plan to spend a little time reviewing the series in full before jumping back into my regular backlog reviews. As a die-hard Ultima fan, I was shocked to discover that I had overlooked the fact that Garriott had authored a novel about his life and career. Somehow, I had missed the news that this book even existed. No sooner did I learn about it, I snapped up a digital copy and fired it up on my Kindle.

As far as autobiographies go, this book is a little odd. First, it focuses on two different aspects of Garriott’s life, his love of exploration and of artistic creation (hence the name of the novel “Explore/Create“). Each chapter is designated with one of those two labels. Chapters tagged as “Explore” focus on Richard Garriott’s real life adventures and amateur scientific excursions. For example, his experiences on the International Space Station, or his trips to Antarctica. Chapters labeled with the “Create” tag, are more geared towards stories about his game developments days.

With this in mind, readers who are only interested in Garriott’s career can skip any of the “Explore” chapters and just get right into the meat of what interests them the most. For me, I did read the entire book of course, but I personally took a greater interest in the stories and anecdotes regarding his work on Ultima and his career at Origin. I found some of his “Explore” adventures to be interesting, but often a bit braggadocios. Richard Garriott strikes me as the type of guy who enjoys his wealth and doesn’t mind flashing his status around. Which, is OK, I suppose. But it comes off as a little silly in print.

I believe all of the stories presented in the book are factual. I don’t think Garriott is spinning any tall tales here. But admittedly, some of them are presented in a very over-the-top fashion. For example, there’s a section early on in the book where he details an event involving a prowler on his property. The whole encounter actually ended with Mr. Garriott holding the trespasser at gunpoint while he waited for the Police to arrive. That is interesting enough on its own, but the way Garriott portrays it is just a little much… I believe the quote was something to the effect of “So then, I grabbed an Uzi and made my way up stairs!” I audibly snorted when I read the line.

I suppose such a grandiose presentation and having a bit of an ego comes with the territory. The man has certainly earned his lifestyle. And despite coming across as a bit of a blowhard, he seems to be a nice person. I’ve had a few dealings with him on Twitter over the years, we’ve sparred on political topics, etc – but despite our difference of opinion, Richard Garriott has always been civil and respectful. That’s more than I can say for some people.

In summary, this is a book that will appeal most to old school gamers, science nerds, and techies. There’s very little here that might inspire the average person to want to thumb through these pages. Once you crack the cover, the book itself is well done, but again, it is certainly not going to appeal to everyone.

Story: Interesting and insightful. It comes off as pretentious at times. By his own admission, Richard Garriott sometimes sounds like a privileged rich kid who lucked out and landed the career of his dreams. However, he also manages to be self critical and humble when appropriate. For those interested, this book provides lots of insider info on the indie game scene of the early 80s – interesting stuff.

Recommended:  For fans of Ultima and old school CRPGS. Science nerds and PC-culture fans.

 

It Came From Netflix: Final Fantasy XIV – Dad of Light

Welcome to the very first “It Came From Netflix…” post! If you’re not sure what this is all about, you can read my announcement here: “It Came From Netflix…” – In my first review for this new feature, I will be discussing an interesting Japanese drama; “Final Fantasy XIV – Dad of Light”.  Since Final Fantasy games are a big part of this site, I thought this show would make a perfect segue into this new series of articles.

Netflix has recently introduced a number of foreign films and television shows. “Dad of Light” is one of them. Now, let me state of up front that this show does not chronicle the events of a particular Final Fantasy game, nor does it feature characters from the series. Instead, it’s a show about the game. More specifically, it’s a story about a father and son who bond through the online world of Final Fantasy XIV.

The plot is simple, it revolves around a young adult named Akio and his father. Akio works a full time job but still lives at home with his family. When he was a little boy, Akio and his father used to spend time together playing old Final Fantasy games. These days, they have drifted apart. One day, Akio’s father suddenly announces his retirement with no explanation. In an effort to rekindle the relationship with his dad, Akio purchases a Playstation 4 and a copy of the online game Final Fantasy XIV and presents them as a gift to his father. His plan is to secretly meet up with his father in the game and befriend him. Then, eventually reveal his identity in hopes of forging a stronger bond through the experience.

The series takes place largely in the real world. But occasionally, certain scenes are shown from an in-game perspective. A large part of the comic relief comes from the interactions between the father’s character and Akio’s in-game persona. The show itself is presented in Japanese with English subtitles. As is the case with most Japanese dramas, it can be oddly quirky at times. But is overall, very charming. There are a few adult situations but for the most part, the show is largely family friendly.

When the series was originally announced in Japan, it went by the rather unflattering name “Daddy of Light”. Yuck… I’m glad to see that Netflix took some artistic privilege when bringing the title to US viewers. I first heard about the series online, shortly after it’s Japanese release. It was no secret that the production company was shopping the series around to American distributors. I was nearly certain that it would be snapped up by Crunchyroll, a company that specializes in Asian media. But, much to my surprise, Netflix got the exclusive rights to the show.

The good thing about this series is  that even viewers who have no interest or knowledge of Final Fantasy XIV will be able to watch and enjoy this show. Of course, players of the game will certainly recognize certain elements and may get a bit more out of the experience. I watched this series with my entire family, and it was enjoyed by all.

All in all, Dad of Light is a heartwarming series. The storyline is very self-contained and there’s pretty much no chance of a second season. Many Japanese television dramas typically only last for one run. In a way, they could be compared to what US viewers know as a “mini-series”. So there’s very little time investment if you simply want to try something new.

If you’re new to foreign media, this series is a pretty good starting point. It’s familiar enough to comfortable, but it still has just a touch of foreign “strangeness” to stand out on its own.

Target Audience: This show is aimed towards a general audience, but fans of Japanese culture, anime, and Final Fantasy are likely to be more drawn to it than others.  It’s a good launching point for Western audiences who are not familiar with the Asian Drama genre.

Number of Episodes: 8

Netflix Exclusive?:  YES

Score (1 out of 4): 3

 

Review: Mobius Final Fantasy

Last but not least in my Final Fantasy mobile game backlog, I have a real oddball; Mobius Final Fantasy. This game is unlike any other mobile RPG I have ever played. It was designed to provide a full-sized RPG experience, but on a device that can fit in your pocket. As a result, it’s a weird hybrid of mobile gaming, but with a console look and feel.

The main character of the game is simply known as “Warrior of Light” or Wol. The game begins when he wakes up and finds himself in a strange land called Palamecia. He soon learns that an evil force has conquered this world. Many nameless heroes just like himself, have awakened to find themselves brought here. These heroes are known as “blanks”.  An ancient prophecy foretells that that one of these blanks will defeat the darkness and free the world of Palamecia from it’s grip forever.  Naturally, the goal of the game is to prove yourself as the real Warrior of Light.

When I started playing Mobius Final Fantasy, I initially played on my mobile phone. Since that time, the game has also been released for PC via Steam. I now prefer the PC port of the game simply due to the expanded screen real estate. (The game is gorgeous!) Regardless of the device you choose, the game experience is largely the same. That being said, I would offer a word of warning to anyone getting started with this title. Mobius Final Fantasy is a HUGE game. It is much more complex than any other mobile game I’ve encountered. It features a very in-depth combat system integrated with the Job System that is found in other Final Fantasy games. These two concepts work in tandem. Together, the end result is a rich, but admittedly complicated gameplay experience. Therefore, I highly suggest taking the time to participate in the in-game tutorials before diving right in. Understanding these systems fully is crucial to being able to master the game itself.

Aside from these elements, the rest of the game is fairly standard when it comes to mobile titles. Your character earns experience through battle and unlocks new points of interest on the map as he progresses. The game frequently receives content updates that include new areas, special events and time-limited challenges. Jobs, abilities and power-ups are either won by progression or obtained through a “gacha” style draw system. The game also features an interesting “subscription” option. If enabled, you will be granted with daily bonuses for as long as your subscription is active. This option is purchased using an in-game currency that is earned automatically over time. Once you’re earned a certain amount, you can either spend it, or bank it to save up.

For me, this game exceeds any expectations I had when it comes to mobile gaming. The amount of content is mind-boggling and both the graphics and sound are breathtaking. It’s really no surprise to me that this game was ported over to the regular PC. Fans of the Final Fantasy series will feel right at home. The game features cameos from throughout the franchise, but still manages to be unique in it’s own way.

Of all the mobile Final Fantasy titles out there, Mobius manages to feel the most like a real RPG game. But make no mistake, it still follows the infamous cash-grabbing mobile model. That being said, Square Enix has always managed to avoid making cash transactions feel like a requirement. This game is no exception.

Difficulty: Medium –  The sheer complexity of this game makes it a bit more challenging to master than other mobile titles. The main scenario of the game is easy enough to complete, but as is the usual case with games of this type, optional content and special events do tend to ramp up the challenge.

Story: For a mobile title, Mobius Final Fantasy really delivers. The storyline is not as rich and detailed as a full fledged RPG, but it outshines nearly any other mobile title.

Originality: When compared to other mobile phone games, the developers were not afraid to take some risks. Even though this title follows a familiar profit-model, the overall gameplay is bold and unique. Much more than one would expect from this type of game.

Soundtrack: This is an area that I cannot praise enough. This game features a score that will knock your socks off. The music is fully orchestrated and is nothing short of spectacular. I personally own the two-disc soundtrack – it’s that good.

Fun: Mobile games are usually best enjoyed in short spurts. This game is really no exception to that rule. It’s very possible to blow through the content relatively quickly – but I’ve found the most enjoyment from this game will be had if played casually. Some parts of the game can be repetitive, and some battles seem longer than they need to be. But as far as mobile games go, this is one of the more enjoyable.

Graphics: The graphics on this title are also top-tier. In fact, older phones are likely to suffer from performance issues as a result. The PC version looks just as pretty, if not more so.

Playcontrol: No real issues here. This is a simple tap-based interface. Purchases require confirmation, everything is clear and concise.

Downloadable Content: YES– In-game currency can be purchased with real money. The game receives regular free updates and features special limited time events.

Mature Content: None

Value:  The game itself is available for free. Optional purchases can vary in price.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – Mobius Final Fantasy is an odd bird. It rides the line between a mobile phone game and a more serious RPG. As a result, if you go in expecting either you’re likely to be in for a surprise. This is a prime example of “it is what it is” – with that in mind, it’s actually quite an exceptional little title. But, be warned; this is certainly not a game for everyone. However, considering you can try it out for free, there’s really nothing to lose.

Available on: Apple App Store, Google Play, Steam

Other Reviews In This Series:

Main Series:

I – II – III – IV – V – VI – VII – VIII – IX – X – X2 – XI – XII – XIII – XIII 2 – XIII Lightning Returns – XIV – XV 

IV: After Years – VII: Dirge of Cerberus – VII: Crisis Core – VII: Advent Children (Movie) – XII: Revenant Wings – Type-0 – XV: A King’s Tale – XV: Brotherhood (Anime) – XV: Kingsglaive (Movie)

Misc Titles:

World of Final Fantasy – Explorers – Mystic Quest – 4 Heroes of Light 

Tactics:

Tactics – Tactics Advance – Tactics A2

Dissidia:

Dissidia – Dissidia 012 – Dissidia NT

Crystal Chronicles:

Crystal Chronicles – Ring of Fates – My Life as King – My Life as Darklord – Echoes of Time – Crystal Bearers

Mobile Titles:

Dimensions – Dimensions 2 – Record Keeper – Brave Exvius – Mobius Final Fantasy  – Justice Monsters V – King’s Knight  – Dissida Final Fantasy Opera Omnia

Review: Final Fantasy Record Keeper

Recently, I posted a review for the Final Fantasy Dissidia mobile game. When doing so, I realized that there are still a handful of mobile Final Fantasy titles that I’ve not posted reviews for. I’ve had several of these sitting in my drafts folder for a while now, so it’s high time that I do a little housecleaning! Next up is a review for the very first mobile-style Final Fantasy game: Record Keeper.

In terms of mobile games, this is an oldie. Final Fantasy Record Keeper was originally released back in 2015. I’ve been playing it off and on since its debut, so I feel pretty bad about neglecting to mention it sooner. Record Keeper is a strange little game. It features a new character by the name of Tyro. Tyro an assistant in a cosmic art gallery that archives all of the events from across the Final Fantasy series. Recently, several records have become tainted and Tyro is tasked with entering the paintings and restoring them to their former glory. In doing so, he relives various events and battles throughout the Final Fantasy universe.

The actual gameplay is similar to other mobile style RPGs. Players can spend stamina to undertake expeditions into various dungeons and events. Once your stamina is expended, you must wait for it to recharge or you can pay real money to replenish it. The main point of the game is to collect and upgrade characters to use in your party. You can then continue to explore new and more challenging areas. The game receives regular content updates that add new scenarios and characters often. There are also special limited-time events that offer rare and exotic prizes.

The main character is Tyro. He is unique in that he can equip all items and abilities. While other characters do come with restrictions on gear. Items are rewarded as you clear stages and also via a “gacha” draw system. Again, players have the option to pay real money for draws. Some characters are more suited than other for particular levels, so it’s always important to keep a variety of secondary characters equipped and leveled up.

Record Keeper was SE’s first foray in the whole micro-transaction based mobile game environment. As a result, the game does show it’s age when compared with SE’s more modern mobile offerings. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a look. As far as mobile games go, Record Keeper is pretty standard. It follows a tried-and-true profit model without being overly predatory like some mobile titles.

The main focus of the game is turn-based combat. It is very reminiscent of early Final Fantasy titles. So, the game will most likely appeal to fans of the Final Fantasy series, but even someone who has no experience with the franchise can enjoy this title. More than anything, this game is one big nostalgia trip. It’s a fun way to revisit classic Final Fantasy games on the go.

Finally, mobile phone users who play games like these often run into the situation of data loss. This can happen is you have to perform a factory reset on your device, or if you upgrade your phone, etc. Record Keeper offers a few solutions for data backup. First, if you’re an Android user – have no fear! Your game data is automatically linked to your Google Play Games account. iPhone users can link the game to a social media account for backup if they choose. There’s also a data transfer option for the fearless, if you want to jump between devices.

Difficulty: Easy –  As is true for most mobile RPGs, the base game and storyline quests do not provide much of a challenge. Special events and hard mode areas, however, are pretty tough. For me, the overall difficulty feels balance and appropriate.

Story: The main focus of this game is nostalgia, not lore. The game features a very bare-bones storyline that sets up an excuse for our new hero to visit classic Final Fantasy locales and characters. But other than serving as a vehicle for that, there’s not much in terms of actually story.

Originality: Being the first real mobile title in the Final Fantasy series, Record Keeper took the framework that has been applied to previous successful mobile games and brought it home for fans to enjoy. In that regard, Record Keeper was welcome and fresh upon it’s release. These days, it’s easy to lose it among a sea of other similar titles.

Soundtrack: The game scores high marks here. It features an original soundtrack as well as music ripped straight out of the main series. There’s plenty of variety and it’s all very well done.

Fun: Of all the mobile Final Fantasy titles, this one is probably my least favorite. But, it’s still very entertaining and I wouldn’t think of removing it from my device. It’s very easy to lose yourself in the game for long stretches. But the game also does just as well when played in short spurts.

Graphics: This game mixes cartoon-style art with retro-sprite graphics and it does it well. The art direction of the game is one of my favorite aspects. The game looks sharp and colorful on any mobile device regardless of screen size.

Playcontrol: No real issues here. This is a simple tap-based interface. Purchases require confirmation, everything is clear and concise.

Downloadable Content: YES– In-game currency can be purchased with real money. The game receives regular free updates and features special limited time events.

Mature Content: None

Value:  The game itself is available for free. Optional purchases can vary in price.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 2 – Record Keeper is an original and interesting mobile title, but one that relies almost exclusively on nostalgia to stay afloat. Still, fans of the series can find a lot to love about this little game. That being said, it’s unlikely to appeal to anyone who is not already emotionally invested in the series.

Available on: Apple App Store and Google Play

Other Reviews In This Series:

Main Series:

I – II – III – IV – V – VI – VII – VIII – IX – X – X2 – XI – XII – XIII – XIII 2 – XIII Lightning Returns – XIV – XV 

IV: After Years – VII: Dirge of Cerberus – VII: Crisis Core – VII: Advent Children (Movie) – XII: Revenant Wings – Type-0 – XV: A King’s Tale – XV: Brotherhood (Anime) – XV: Kingsglaive (Movie)

Misc Titles:

World of Final Fantasy – Explorers – Mystic Quest – 4 Heroes of Light 

Tactics:

Tactics – Tactics Advance – Tactics A2

Dissidia:

Dissidia – Dissidia 012 – Dissidia NT

Crystal Chronicles:

Crystal Chronicles – Ring of Fates – My Life as King – My Life as Darklord – Echoes of Time – Crystal Bearers

Mobile Titles:

Dimensions – Dimensions 2 – Record Keeper – Brave Exvius – Mobius Final Fantasy  – Justice Monsters V – King’s Knight  – Dissida Final Fantasy Opera Omnia

Review: Dissidia Final Fantasy Opera Omnia

Fresh on the heels of my Dissidia NT review, I’m going to take a moment to discuss the mobile spin-off; Dissidia Final Fantasy Opera Omnia.  Wow! What a mouthful! This is a free-to-play mobile game that is available on iPhone and Android devices. It features more traditional RPG combat, but also incorporates certain elements found in Dissidia. The end result is a unique mobile gaming experience.

This mobile game was released to coincide with the Dissidia NT launch. In fact, players who purchase a copy of NT at release, will receive a special code that unlocks a starter pack in Opera Omnia. (Normally available for purchase with real money). These two games very much compliment each other. Dissdia NT is action and battle focused, while Opera Omnia helps to round out the storyline and features a much more laid-back battle system.

The basic premise of this game is to participate in a number of battles using a roster of characters from across the Final Fantasy franchise. Characters can earn experience and level up. You can equip various arms and armor on your characters. This equipment is earned through a “gacha” style draw system. The game also features special events, daily quests, and rewards. In-game currency can be earned by playing through the contents of the game or can also be purchased for real money. Pretty standard fare.

The main plot of the game is simple. Heroes from different Final Fantasy games are brought together to help defeat monsters. The roster of playable characters is pretty impressive. All of the usual elements for mobile RPGs will be found in this title.  To be completely honest, there’s little aside from the Final Fantasy theme to set this game apart from a multitude of others out there. But, fans of the series are not likely to care. The gameplay is well done and the script is entertaining. When looking at the big picture, there’s little to complain about.

The basic version of the game is pretty accessible regardless of the player’s skill level. In fact, the game even offers an automatic battle option. So it can literally play itself. However, if you want to max out the rewards that you receive at the end of each battle, you will need to play manually. Once you’ve cleared a chapter, you also unlock a “hard mode” of that area. Hard mode is no cake walk. This is where the game’s real challenge comes into fruition.

These days, the mobile gaming market is pretty stable. Free to Play titles that are supported by microtransactions are fairly commonplace. In this regard, Opera Omnia is a pretty standard operation. The game itself is free and receives frequent content updates that are also free of charge. The option also exists for players to spend real money on virtual currency that can enhance their characters and expand storage. The trick to enjoying games like this without breaking the bank is patience. Games of this type always offers freebies and bonuses from time to time. Opera Omnia actually feels to be very unoffensive in this regard. Many mobile games are designed to be exploitative. Very often, games like these eventually reach a point where the player feels compelled to spend real money in order to progress. So far, I’ve not encountered this type of issue with Opera Ominia.

My biggest complaint is that in order to back up your game data, you are required to link a Facebook account. Other mobile Final Fantasy games also have this requirement. As someone who no longer keeps a personal Facebook profile, I find this to be annoying. Other games have successfully used alternate methods of backup that work just fine. King’s Knight is a prime example of data backup done right.

All in all, Dissidia Opera Omnia is a welcome addition to the lineup of mobile Final Fantasy titles. It’s simple to grasp and offers a fun way to kill some time. It’s not as engrossing and does not require as much commitment as some mobile titles. But, that’s ok. Sometimes you just need a little something to kill a few minutes of downtime. Opera Omnia provides just that.

Difficulty: Easy –  The base game and storyline quests do not provide much of a challenge. Special events and hard mode areas, however, are pretty tough. Overall, this makes the game feel appropriately balanced.

Story: Opera Omnia provides the story that Dissidia NT neglected. We get to see how our heroes initially came together and there’s lots of fun dialog to boot.

Originality: This game follows a fairly standard mobile model. In large part, it’s nothing that we haven’t seen before. But, the incorporation of the Dissidia battle model does give this game a bit a of a unique feel.

Soundtrack: The music in this title is phenomenal. It features a number of classic Final Fantasy scores, including music from the Dissidia sub-series. Well done and enjoyable.

Fun: I enjoy this game for what it is; a simple, entertaining way to kill time. In my opinion, this is what mobile games should aim for. There’s plenty of content without a huge time investment.

Graphics: This game takes a cartoonish approach to it’s graphical rendering. But, it’s well done and beautiful.  It’s looks good on both smaller smartphones and “phablets”.

Playcontrol: No real issues here. This is a simple tap-based interface. Purchases require confirmation, so there’s no concern about accidentally spending real money due to fat fingers.

Downloadable Content: YES– In-game currency can be purchased with real money. The game receives regular free updates and features special limited time events.

Mature Content: None

Value:  The game itself is available for free. Optional purchases can vary in price.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – A story-heavy gacha game for mobile devices. This title doesn’t seem to rely on cash-transactions as heavily as others. Fans of the old PSP Dissidia titles who are turned off by the fast-paced combat in Dissidia NT, may find what they are looking for in this little game. That aside, there’s very little that sets this apart from other similar titles.

Available on: Apple App Store and Google Play

Other Reviews In This Series:

Main Series:

I – II – III – IV – V – VI – VII – VIII – IX – X – X2 – XI – XII – XIII – XIII 2 – XIII Lightning Returns – XIV – XV 

IV: After Years – VII: Dirge of Cerberus – VII: Crisis Core – VII: Advent Children (Movie) – XII: Revenant Wings – Type-0 – XV: A King’s Tale – XV: Brotherhood (Anime) – XV: Kingsglaive (Movie)

Misc Titles:

World of Final Fantasy – Explorers – Mystic Quest – 4 Heroes of Light 

Tactics:

Tactics – Tactics Advance – Tactics A2

Dissidia:

Dissidia – Dissidia 012 – Dissidia NT

Crystal Chronicles:

Crystal Chronicles – Ring of Fates – My Life as King – My Life as Darklord – Echoes of Time – Crystal Bearers

Mobile Titles:

Dimensions – Dimensions 2 – Record Keeper – Brave Exvius – Mobius Final Fantasy  – Justice Monsters V – King’s Knight  – Dissida Final Fantasy Opera Omnia

Review: Dissidia Final Fantasy NT

The trilogy is now complete! The third and latest game in the Final Fantasy Dissidia series is here! After months of hype from Square Enix and Team Ninja, let’s see how this home version of the arcade sensation measures up.

As I mentioned above, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is actually a port of the Japanese arcade title “Dissidia Final Fantasy”. The arcade version drew inspiration from the previous Dissidia games for PSP, but was completely redesigned from the ground up to be a six-player competitive title. The PS4 release is essentially an enhanced port of the arcade version. It is Square Enix’s first foray into the the world of professional competitive gaming.

Like the previous Dissidia titles, NT is a fighting game. But this time, the focus is on team battles instead of one-on-one combat. For Dissidia NT, teams are made up of three players each. There are currently two modes of play available: Regular and Core Battles (which is essentially Capture the Flag). The combat itself is similar to previous Dissidia titles. Characters can execute both Bravery and Hit Point attacks against their opponents. They have special abilities at their disposal and can also collect energy that enables them to execute special summons – these summons can really turn the tide of battle in an instant. This time, characters are assigned specific roles. The options are: Vanguard (This is essentially a tank/melee fighter), Assassin (Speedy, with weak individual attacks that can combo-chain and result in significant damage), Marksman (ranged attacker), and Specialists (This is a catch all-role. Each Specialist character offers something unique to the arena – usually buff and de-buff focused.) As you continue to play and level up individual characters, new abilities are unlocked.

The roster of characters for Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is as follows:

Warrior of Light (Vanguard)  *  Garland (Vanguard)  *  Firion (Vanguard)  *  Emperor (Marksman)  *  Onion Knight (Specialist)  *  Cloud of Darkness (Vanguard)  *  Cecil (Vanguard)  *  Kain (Assassin)  *  Golbez (Marksman)  *  Bartz (Specialist)  *  Exdeath (Specialist)  *  Terra (Marksman)  *  Kefka (Marksman)  *  Cloud (Vanguard)  *  Sephiroth (Vanguard)  *  Squall (Assassin)  *  Ultimecia (Marksman)  *  Zidane (Assassin)  *  Kuja (Assassin)  *  Tidus (Assassin)  *  Jecht (Assassin)  *  Shantotto (Marksman)  *  Vaan (Specialist)  *  Lightning (Assassin)  *  Y’shtola (Marksman)  *  Noctis (Assassin)  *  Ramza (Specialist)  *  Ace (Marksman)

The main focus of this game is online multiplayer. The game does feature a single-player story mode, but this consists of nothing but a series of cutscenes that must be unlocked by spending tokens called “Memoria”. Memoria is earned whenever you level up a character. So unlocking all of the cutscenes will require quite a bit of grind. Again, in this title, the storyline really takes a backseat. The main point of the game is to participate in ranked online matches. So, if you’re the type of person that really gets into ladder rankings and eSports statistics, you’re likely to find this game much more interesting than someone who isn’t. Lore enthusiasts are still able to find an enjoyable storyline that fits in nicely with the other Dissidia titles. However, understand that this is delivered almost exclusively through cutscenes – not through gameplay.

Compared to other fighting games, and even other Dissidia titles, NT has quite a huge learning curve. The game does offer various tutorials. However, these leave a lot to be desired. The tutorials are poorly written and the screenshots included are not particularly helpful. To be honest, the only way you’re really going to understand the gist of the game is if you play. The downside is, the game will likely feel overly-chaotic and confusing to the point of frustration, especially for a new player.

The biggest issue for me was understanding the targeting system. The tutorial does a decent job of explaining how to switch between various targets. But, in practice it is not quite that simple. Often times I would find myself locked on to a particular target and I would start advancing towards them, only to have them suddenly dart across the screen. My character would continue to follow them of course, but the camera would no longer be focused on my character. On more than one occasion, I would find myself staring at the screen, clueless, trying to find myself amidst all the chaos.

Movement is also a bit of an issue. The game’s movement and camera controls are simple enough. But, due to the fast-paced nature of the combat, you’ll spend most of your time moving around at high-speed. Being a 4D battlefield, you’ll often end up chasing down a target only to find yourself suspended in mid-air unable to land a blow.  Now, obviously a lot of this is simply an issue of experience. The more I played the game, the more I was able to understand the basic concepts of battle and movement. However, the in-game tutorials do a terrible job of getting a new player ready for their first encounter. Which brings me to the next big issue….

Both the single player AI and the online matchmaking are terribly out of balance. Considering that Dissidia NT is a team-based game, skill-balance should really be a major focus. When playing single player mode, the AI versions of your teammates are nearly useless. In most cases, I felt like I was actually playing a 1-on-3 match. On the other side of the coin, the opponent AI seems slightly overpowered. This is worsened as you continue to play and the difficulty level increases. After winning a few single player matches, the difficulty spikes in a way that seems very disproportionate.

When being grouped with other players online, the game is supposed to try to match you with players of an equal skill. However, I’ve found this not to be the case. To make matters worse, the online game is currently suffering from both matchmaking errors and lag issues. These are items that simply must be corrected in short order if the game is to have any chance of success.

As far as eSports titles go, Dissidia NT does have a lot of potential. Gamers that enjoy ranked competition and who want to try their hand at a different type of fighting game may find just what they’re looking for here. Casual players are likely to be turned off by this title.

Finally, let’s look at a few other aspects of the game itself. Like many arena style games, players can earn and unlock various outfits, color schemes, and emotes to equip on their characters. These are earned via a gacha-style draw system. Thankfully, instead of being available in real-money loot boxes, treasure is earned by spending in-game points. A handful of outfits and weapons are also available in the form of DLC (currently as pre-order perks and promotional redemptions). I expect to see these available for individual purchase on PSN eventually. SE has also promised that six new playable characters will be available in the future as part of a Season Pass.

In summary, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is a game that’s designed for a very specific niche of gamers. You’re either going to love it or hate it. Personally, it’s not the type of game that I enjoy in the long term. Typically, I tend to play a game to completion before I post a review. However, due to the nature of this title I decided to share my thoughts after spending a few solid days with it. I’m not a competitive gamer. I prefer to play games to unwind. While I don’t mind the occasional grind, the reward has to be worth the time I’m putting in. In this case, I found very little in Dissidia NT to keep my interest. Grinding battle after battle for trophies is not my cup of tea and considering I have no interest in ladder rankings – there’s just not a lot that’s going to keep me playing once I’ve cleared the story mode. I’m curious to see if the eSports crowd adopts this title or if it is ultimately going to be forgotten. Regardless, it is a noble attempt from Square Enix and a pretty impressive debut into the evolving genre of professional online gaming.

Difficulty: Variable –  Being primarily an online title, you are competing against other players. Therefore, the difficulty of the battles you will encounter will vary greatly. Generally speaking, this type of game attracts players of a very competitive nature. So, if you’re a casual player, expect to find yourself pitted against those of a much greater skill level – this is true even though the game claims to match you players of an equal skill. For single player challenges, the game may feel overly difficult at first. The unusual nature of the game will provide quite a learning curve, even for players used to brawlers. However, it should generally become a bit easier as you’re able to grasp the concepts of the game and get a little more experience under your belt.

Story: This is the game’s weakest link. Dissidia NT is technically a sequel to other games in the Dissidia series. However, once again, the storyline provided is barebones at best. The game’s overall plot unfolds through a series of cutscenes that players can unlock as they grind through battles. It serves as nothing more than a loose excuse to throw a bunch of characters from various Final Fantasy games together in one title. But, considering the nature of the game itself, this is forgivable.

Originality: Fighting games are nothing new. Dissidia NT manages to stay unique by providing a 3-on-3 experience and an original battle concept. It borrows heavily from the previous Dissidia titles, but also isn’t shy about venturing off into a new direction.

Soundtrack: This game features a variety of background tracks hailing from the entire line of previous Final Fantasy games. These classic tracks have been rearranged fairly well and are fitting for the style of gameplay. The voice acting is a mixed bag. It’s great to hear Noctis and Lightning again, but some of the characters are downright annoying.

Fun: If fast-paced competitive gaming is your thing, you’ll find to find a lot of like about Dissidia NT. If you’re expecting a battle game with RPG elements like the previous Dissidia titles, prepare to be disappointed. It’s as simple as that.

Graphics: High marks here. This is a simply beautiful game. Everything from the characters to the environments are breathtakingly rendered. The battle effects are colorful and well done. This game is filled with eye candy.

Playcontrol:  This will be an issue for many players. While the controls are responsive and well thought out, they are unusual. Mastering the controls will take practice. Thankfully, they are customizable. The chase camera needs some work. But there’s always manual camera controls if needed.

Downloadable Content: YES – At the time of this writing, DLC is restricted to pre-order, and promotional codes for vanity items. A season pass will also be available and currently promises six additional playable characters. Price to be announced.

Mature Content: Skimpy outfits on some characters. Online interactions.

Value:  The game currently retails for the premier price of $60.00. This is likely to decrease in the months to come. If you’re the type of player that enjoys these style of games, the full price might very well be worth it. However, if you’re on the fence it might be best to wait a while.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 2 – I wanted to like this game. But, in the end I decided that it’s just not for me. That alone doesn’t sink the title. But when combined with a poor tutorial, connection issues, and the current unbalanced play. I have to call a spade a spade. Dissidia NT has a lot of potential. Thankfully, in the world we live in now, games can be patched and refined. I hope to see many of my concerns addressed in the months to come. If you’re a Final Fantasy RPG fan who wants a little fighting action, perhaps Dissidia 012 on the PSP will be more your speed. However, if you’re a hardcore MOBA gamer who’s in the mood for something unique, Dissdia NT might be exactly what you’re looking for

Available on: PS4

Other Reviews In This Series:

Main Series:

I – II – III – IV – V – VI – VII – VIII – IX – X – X2 – XI – XII – XIII – XIII 2 – XIII Lightning Returns – XIV – XV 

IV: After Years – VII: Dirge of Cerberus – VII: Crisis Core – VII: Advent Children (Movie) – XII: Revenant Wings – Type-0 – XV: A King’s Tale – XV: Brotherhood (Anime) – XV: Kingsglaive (Movie)

Misc Titles:

World of Final Fantasy – Explorers – Mystic Quest – 4 Heroes of Light 

Tactics:

Tactics – Tactics Advance – Tactics A2

Dissidia:

Dissidia – Dissidia 012 – Dissidia NT

Crystal Chronicles:

Crystal Chronicles – Ring of Fates – My Life as King – My Life as Darklord – Echoes of Time – Crystal Bearers

Mobile Titles:

Dimensions – Dimensions 2 – Record Keeper – Brave Exvius – Mobius Final Fantasy  – Justice Monsters V – King’s Knight  – Dissida Final Fantasy Opera Omnia

Dungeons & Dragons: Tales from the Yawning Portal

We’re almost caught up with our look at Dungeons & Dragons products. Today, I’m going to talk about a book that I’m super-excited about; Tales from the Yawning Portal. This book is a collection of classic dungeons that span all ages of D&D. Here they have been archived, polished, and given the official 5th edition treatment. Let me be clear and state that this book is not an adventure module. It’s also not a cover-to-cover campaign. But rather what we have here is a Greatest Hits collection of classic D&D dungeons and scenarios.

So, with that in mind, what does this book actually contain? Well, here’s a breakdown of the dungeons included in this product:

The Sunless Citadel – Originally published for 3rd Edition, The Sunless Citadel was an instant classic. It’s often been said that the original adventure is what brought D&D back into the mainstream in the early 2000’s. This is an adventure designed to take players from Level 1-3.

The Forge of Fury – A sequel to The Sunless Citadel. This adventure piggybacks off the previous classic. The contents of this module will take players from level 3-5.

The Hidden Shrine of Tamochan – This is an old one, dating back to 1979! First edition D&D at its origin. Originally a Greyhawk adventure, this dungeon has a very Mayan feel to it and focuses on traps and out-of-the box thinking. This is a classic, tricky dungeon crawl designed for 5th level characters.

White Plume Mountain – Another classic 1e dungeon filled with traps, monsters, and old school tropes. This one is a long time favorite of grognards like myself. In fact, this was the first D&D experience I ever had as a player back when I was about twelve years old. This version of the dungeon has been tweaked for 8th level players.

Dead in Thay – This module was originally invented during the 5th edition playtest as part of the D&D Encounters series. It has been modified for home play and slightly redesigned for 9th level characters.

Against the Giants – This adventure is actually a combination of three classic pre-1st edition modules. They have been refined and linked into one full-scale adventure. Again, this is CLASSIC retro D&D. I can’t stress how excited I am to see this in modern print. This adventure is designed for players of 11th level.

Tomb of Horrors – THIS IS IT! The one that started it all. Tomb of Horrors is one of the most revered and celebrated dungeons of all time. Finally, it has been officially modernized and brought to print for 5e players. This dungeon focuses more on role playing and tactics than simple hack and slash. It’s a brutal, unforgiving deathtrap that is designed to be undertaken by high level characters.

As you can see, the adventures found in this book are not presented as part of an arching storyline, but rather they are intended as standalone encounters that can be cherry-picked and inserted into any ongoing campaign. After several full 5e campaigns, I’m glad to see WotC has decided to step back and provide a collection of classic time-tested adventures that DMs and players can enjoy however they see fit.

This book also contains a small appendix of magical items and monsters, making it even more valuable for any DM’s collection. I personally look forward to running a number of these dungeons in the future once my home campaign gets started. In my personal opinion, this book is a MUST HAVE for any serious 5th edition DM.

 

Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Products:

Starter Set    –   Character Sheets   –  Dungeon Master’s Screens

Core Books:  

Player’s Handbook   –   Dungeon Master’s Guide   –   Monster Manual

Supplements:

Volo’s Guide to Monsters    –   Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide  – Xanthar’s Guide to Everything

Adventures:

Hoard of the Dragon Queen   –  Rise of Tiamat    – Princes of the Apocalypse  –  Out of the Abyss   – Curse of Strahd   –   Storm King’s Thunder  –  Tales from the Yawning Portal  – Tomb of Annihilation

Collective Review: Tomb Raider – The Last Revelation & Chronicles

           

I’m still polishing off my “turn of the century” gaming reviews and today I bring a collective look at two Tomb Raider titles. It’s been five years since I last discussed this series. Five years! I’m slacking! At that time, I did a collective review of the first three Tomb Raider games. In case you missed it, you can read it: here

The first three Tomb Raider games were released back to back in ’96, ’97 and ’98.  They were very similar in design and therefore I chose to review them together. The same is true with the next two entries in the series; Tomb Raider – The Last Revelation (AKA: Tomb Raider IV – 1999) and Tomb Raider Chronicles (AKA: Tomb Raider V – 2000).  So again, I’m going to look at these games together. I played the first three Tomb Raider games on the PC at the time they were released and loved them. However, by the time the next two entries were released my mind was on other things and I shamefully admit that I overlooked them. I’m glad to have finally had a chance to sink my teeth into these classic titles.

Before starting, let me say upfront that these games are old and they do not always play well with modern systems. In fact, to get these to run properly you may need to resort to the use of various third-party tools. There are video driver wrappers, full-screen resolution fixes, and other tricks available out there for players who wish to play these on modern systems. It is likely you will require at least some of these if you want to enjoy these on the PC. Of course, these games were also available on the Sony Playstation, so if you are able to play them native or emulated on that system you can save some stress (albeit you might be missing some of the additional content – more on that later).

First up is Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation. This is the fourth game in the original Tomb Raider series and it’s very much more of the same. In fact, I was a bit shocked at just how much like the previous games this title ended up being. The game starts with a brief tutorial showing Lara Croft as a young sixteen year old girl accompanying her mentor as they explore some ruins. Once this initial stage is over, the game returns to the modern time and focuses on Lara as she seeks to retrieve an ancient Egyptian artifact and uncovers a secret archaeological plot. Sadly, very predictable stuff. But, admittedly pretty well done – all things considered.

Even though the graphics are similar to the previous games, there are some subtle improvements that make this title a pleasure to look at. Even today, in a world of high definition textures, The Last Revelation manages to be very atmospheric. It has the classic Tomb Raider feel that made the series popular. Also, Lara now has a few new moves at her disposal to keep things feeling fresh in a gameplay model that is quickly running the risk of growing stale. For me, The Last Revelation is a great example of classic Tomb Raider. There’s plenty of content and it’s overall very well done.

As with several of the previous games in the series, it’s worth mentioning that there was a free additional level available for download shortly after the game’s release. This level is included automatically if you purchase the game from GOG. If you purchase the game elsewhere, or still have an original copy, you may need to do some scouring to find it.

Next, let’s turn our attention to the fifth game in the Tomb Raider series: Tomb Raider Chronicles. This one is a bit of an oddball…  I don’t want to ruin the ending of The Last Revelation, but the game ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. Chronicles is a direct sequel, but instead of following a continuous story like all of the games that game before it. Tomb Raider Chronicles is instead a collection of smaller scenarios that focus on a number of Lara’s previously untold adventures.

Gameplay wise, the title works well. But this entry in the series feels largely uninspired. It simply doesn’t hold the magic that the first four games in the series managed to conjure up. Still, fans of the series are likely to find it enjoyable.

In a nutshell, these two games are a welcome entries in original franchise. But the series is beginning to show signs of age. Chronicles is a strong example of what happens when developers cling to a proven model but refuse to take new risks. I’m curious to see how the next few games in the series pan out.

Difficulty: Hard –  The classic Tomb Raider titles held a reputation for being a bit on the tough side. These games certainly continue that trend. In fact, I feel they are even a little harder that the first trilogy. Personally, I find a large part of the difficulty in these games coming from the playcontrol. The PC controls are stiff and stubborn, even with a controller. The console versions are little easier to manage, but not by much. The puzzles are thoughtful and challenging, yes. But by far the main level of frustration in these games comes from the actual gameplay, at least for me.

Story: The storyline for The Last Revelation is very well done. It’s compelling and interesting and it ends with a shocker. Chronicles is a bit of a mixed bag, but it does a decent job linking up with it’s predecessor. Like with the previous games, most of the lore and story is presented through cutscenes that take place in between levels and at the beginning and end of the games.

Originality: At this point there’s nothing new to see here. Yes, there are some novel additions to the games. But adding the ability to walk on tightropes and swing on vines does not help this quickly aging recipe. The game engine is past its prime and compared to other titles of the day, the Tomb Raider series is starting to lag behind.

Soundtrack: The voice acting is fairly well done. The OST for the games vary. Overall, most of the background music is fitting but not particularly exciting. There are a few stand out tracks, however.

Fun: Hardcore Tomb Raider fans will find a good level of enjoyment in these games, especially The Last Revelation. But casual players might have a harder time getting into these. Regardless, if Tomb Raider is your cup of tea, you won’t be disappointed.

Graphics: Despite still piggybacking off the original TR engine, the graphics show some minor signs of improvement when compared with earlier games in the series. That being said, they also lag behind other games of the era. Oddly enough, TR4 seems to outshine TR5 in terms of beauty. 

Playcontrol:  For me, the playcontrol on these classic Tomb Raider titles are the biggest issue. Controls are stiff, non-responsive and punishing. Again, the saving grace here is being able to save and reload your game as needed. I’ve played these titles using both the keyboard as well as various gamepads. I can’t decide which works best… either way is riddled with issues. The console versions do feel a bit more natural, but still suffer.

Downloadable Content: YES – Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation received a free playable level that was distributed by the English newspaper The Times. The file is no longer available officially, but can be found on various fan sites free of charge.

Mature Content: Minor language, ridiculously shaped female characters.

Value:  You can snag both of these games together from GOG for $10. Buying them individually on Steam will run you about $7 each. So unless they go on sale, GOG is the way to go. Plus, GOG also happens to distribute the DLC level for Tomb Raider 4.  Even despite their faults, these games are a steal at $10.00.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 2 – At this point, the Tomb Raider series is starting to show it’s age. These games are far from perfect when compared with the original trilogy – this is especially the case with Chronicles. However, for the price and the amount of content, they are well worth an addition to any gamer’s collection. The biggest thing holding these back are the persistent playcontrol issues and the lack of innovation.

Available on: PSN, GOG, Steam

 

Other Reviews In This Series:

TR – TR2 – TR3 – Last Revelation – Chronicles – Angel of Darkness

Legends – Anniversary – Underworld – Guardian of Light
Tomb Raider (2013)    –  Rise of the Tomb Raider