Friday, May 21, 2021

"Mass Effect: Legendary Edition" Review

A groundbreaking and innovative effort that paved the way for the likes of "The Witcher" series, the "Mass Effect" trilogy gave players a hand in authorship, allowing them to shape and direct their own stories with key choices and morality-based decisions hanging in the balance.

Choices you made in the game not only affected your ending, but characters who lived or died shaped the rest of your experience in the remaining. It always seemed as though the trilogy were one, humongous interlinked game, and "Mass Effect: Legendary Edition" now brings that vision to life.

Originally released in 2007, 2010 and 2012, the trilogy had started to show some laugh lines and arthritic pains over the years. The new effort from BioWare smooths out the rough edges and combines the games into one near-seamless saga. 

The original "Mass Effect" gets the most noticeable facelift, with its rough control systems smoothed out and its laborious loading times mitigated. The other two games also get significant boosts, with the lone significant sacrifice -- the loss of multiplayer in "Mass Effect 3" -- only seeming like a minimal setback.

Crafting and shaping your Command Shepard throughout the journey is enriching, with repeated playthroughs letting you toy with various styles and permutations. You can take on the mentality of a conniving manipulator in one, a ruthless, bloodthirsty tyrant in another, and a meek person with pacifist leanings in a third go-round. The often devastating repercussions -- in survival of characters and entire races, romantic unions lost and fund and in side stories discovered -- is often illuminating or disheartening.

The writing craft at play in the "Mass Effect" franchise was always the rocket that lifted it to its storied heights, and now the visuals and accessibility match it. Always known as a tough RPG, the ease-of-life benefits now sometimes steer the game into easy territory. But the true rewards come in participating in the story in a way unlike any franchise before, and a nature that is in many ways still unmatched.

While the trilogy's follow-up, "Mass Effect: Andromeda," left some players yearning for the olden days, this revamped, optimized taste of the original satisfies that nostalgic craving, while shining a promising light on the series' future.

Publisher provided review code.

Friday, May 07, 2021

"Angels of Death" Review

 Locked away in a prison that seems to be straight out of a horror flick nightmare, you're pursued by a relentless killer who can overwhelm you with strength or speed. "Angels of Death" tasks you to use limited resources to evade and overcome the threat.

Whether or not you succeed is determined by your ingenuity, capacity for failure and -- most likely -- ability to closely follow YouTube walkthroughs.

Oddball twists and obfuscated solutions to strange puzzles abound, but the roadblocks ratchet up the sense of satisfaction as you progress in spite of the foreboding odds. "Angels of Death" is feet meeting fire.

The top-down puzzle adventure, which came out on PC in 2016 and the Switch in 2018, now makes its way to the Xbox One.

Developer Kadokawa Dwango Corporation keeps the sounds and visuals simple, giving the game the feel of a 16-bit classic. The archaic sensibilities add to the charm, making it feel as though you're playing through an otherworldly experience from a lost parallel universe.

"Angels of Death" is a rough-hewn experience, but well-polished in execution over the years. Dark and melancholic, the game offers punishment for those who are into that kind of thing.

Publisher provided review code.

PHIL ON FILM: "Paper Spiders"

 For my full review, click here.

Thursday, May 06, 2021

"The Longing" Review

Left alone in the dark to fend for yourself, "The Longing" eschews hand-holding or even gentel guidance in favor of obtuse obfuscation. To progress, you will need to tinker, try, fail, fail again and hope for the best. 

With shades of "Limbo" and "Inside" as artistic inspiration the puzzler from developer Application Systems Heidelberg challenges you to think for yourself. Expect to spend plenty of time going nowhere, puttering about, considering the meaning of it all.

In this day and age, games that leave you stranded on your own are a welcome shakeup. The respect and challenge, however, come at a hefty price.

There is plenty of trial and error at play -- often to a frustrating degree, amounting to a brick wall of progress. The bottlenecking, combined with limited save capabilities, can make "The Longing" try your patience.

As you crawl your way through the plot -- which gives you a 400-day countdown to finish -- you are left to your own devices to tinker and tailor your ventures toward the ultimate goal.

If that sort of thing makes you smile rather than wince, this is probably the time of game for which you'll find yourself longing.

Publisher provided review code.