Category: Articles

Rune Factory 4 Special Review (Nintendo Switch)

  • Genre: RPG, Action, Simulation
  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch
  • Developer | Publisher: Marvelous Inc/Neverland/Hakama Inc | Marvelous Europe/XSEED
  • Age Rating: PEGI 12 | ESRB T (Teen)
  • Price: UK £32.99 | US $39.99
  • Release Date: 28th February 2020

No review code was provided, and any opinions contained below are my own. I actually went all out and bought the Archival Edition – I couldn’t help myself!

Rune Factory is a series that sits near and dear to my heart. As the first series to really get me into gaming, and one that I’ve followed religiously (the handheld variants, anyway) for many years, I was delighted when Rune Factory 4 got a fresh coat of paint for the Switch, but did it live up to my lofty expectations?

Story/Characters

If you haven’t played a Rune factory game before, they generally have the same premise; the protagonist rolls into town with no memory of who they are, where they’re from, or why they’re here, and with the assistance of the pushy but kind-hearted townspeople end up with a home and a very overgrown farm. After a short time of peace, something goes wrong that causes you to investigate one of the dungeons that lie nearby, and so begins your quest to fix whatever calamity has occurred and therefore save the town you’ve come to love. It’s a very basic premise that allows for a lot of variation, and differentiates Rune Factory from it’s combat-free sister series Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons.

The characters you’ll encounter along the way give the game much of it’s charm; from the wonderfully reliable Volkanon to the exuberant Procoline, each townsperson has a very distinct personality and background that really emphasises the fact that you’ve just been dropped into the middle of these people’s lives. As your relationships improve with various people you’ll learn more about their pasts, and gain insight into their current problems. Selphia really does feel like an organic town, and provides a wonderful escape from the outside world. 

Gameplay

Anyone familiar with the Harvest Moon series will be familiar with the majority of the mechanics in Rune Factory, but they’re nice and simple. You have one active equipment slot on B for weapons or tools (such as swords, hoes, and seeds), four ability slots (X, Y, R+X, and R+Y) for spells and rune abilities, left control stick to move, and A to interact. + is your bag, level tracking, and settings, while – is your quest list – if there’s a limit on how many quests you can have active at once, I haven’t encountered it yet. You collect quests from either talking to villagers or picking them up from Eliza the talking request box.

Combat is hack-n-slash, using both your equipped B weapon and rune abilities/spells. The higher you level in the associated skill, the lower the RP cost will be, but the higher your weapon level the higher the RP cost e.g. you could forge a Lvl 10 amazing short sword at Lvl 99, but if your Short Sword skill is only level 20 you won’t get many swings out of it before your RP is gone. Monsters each have an associated strength/weakness from the following; physical, fire, water, earth, wind, light, dark, and love. Figuring out these weaknesses is key to defeating higher-level bosses, as with the right equipment loadout you can make all damage nullified or even heal you for a small amount.

Farming is also primarily done using the B button, in combination with A. B uses the equipped tool, for example a hoe or watering can, and A is used to pick something up. Depending on the seed, each type of plant may only grow in a certain season, or take a very long time to grow (dungeon fields are a saviour in this case) so think strategically when planting! Rune Points are also used when doing farming tasks, so during the early game you won’t be able to do a huge amount during a day – interactions don’t cost RP though, which is nice!

Crafting is broken down into 4 sub-categories; cooking, chemistry, forging and crafting. Each has its own set of tools, for example cooking is performed on a selection of tools such as the knife, steamer, pot, oven etc, and a chemistry set, forge, and crafting table are available relatively early in the game. Each recipe has 6 ingredient slots, though I haven’t yet found a recipe that uses all 6, and recipes can be learned by eating recipe bread obtained from either the restaurant or winning festivals. If you know a recipe but haven’t got a high enough level in that skill, or have a high enough level but don’t know the recipe, then an item will cost more RP to make, whereas if you’re both too low a level and don’t know a recipe, then you’ll just fail. These skills are very important when you prepare for combat.

Relationships are the final cornerstone of Rune Factory. There are three primary types; friendships with townspeople, romantic relations with townspeople, and monster friendships. Not all townspeople are marriageable, so some will have a friendship meter while others will have a love meter (essentially the same thing, but a love meter indicates a character with whom you can begin a romantic relationship if desired). These levels can be raised by speaking to people daily and giving them gifts – if you want a quick guide on what to get whom, and when their birthdays are, there are loads of websites that list it all nice and neatly! Monster friendships work in a similar way. Once you’ve built a barn, and tamed a monster (usually by throwing lots of stuff at it and brushing whenever it isn’t trying to attack you) it’ll move in. You can then take it as a companion on adventures, receive things like wool and milk, or set it to work on the farm once your friendship is high enough.

Both monsters and townspeople can join you in exploring the nearby dungeons. For characters their relationship level must be high enough though; you then start a conversation and press either L or R. Once the conversation is over, you’ll have a few extra options – this is also how you confess your feelings to an eligible bachelor or bachelorette, so it’s a handy one to remember! No matter who accompanies you out in the field, they’ll gain combat experience and level up accordingly. Gifting equipment to humans will make them equip it, so be sure to load them up before [ in the item description) will increase their base stats. 

Graphics, Sound, and Performance

This game looks beautiful, especially when placed alongside its 3DS predecessor. The graphics are still rather simple, but the game oozes charm with the uncomplicated animations and vivid colour scheme. Each character feels truly unique, with completely individual designs and voices (with a choice between English and Japanese!) and are easily identified on the zoomable mini-map. Whether in handheld or docked or Lite, the graphics retain their nice clean edges and everything is easy to see.

The music has had a slight upgrade from the 3DS version, having been cleaned up and made smoother, but the only major change is the intro song. Personally I preferred the original, but the new one is a good fit for this relaxing yet challenging game and really seems to fit the town you’re in.

Also – no performance issues in any mode, win!

Difficulty

Difficulty options galore! Along with the traditional Easy, Medium, and Hard, Rune Factory 4 Special gained an additional difficulty; Hell mode. I haven’t tried it personally, because I love to play on easy and just enjoy the game, but my friend plays on Hell and she’s found it a major headache – it’s called Hell mode for a reason! Even on easy, it isn’t the easiest game; I breezed through the first ⅔ until the final major dungeon absolutely destroyed me, not to mention the challenge maze you can unlock! It’s definitely a grind-y game, but enjoyable enough that the grind doesn’t feel like a huge problem.

Conclusion

Rune Factory 4 Special had big shoes to fill. I’m delighted to admit that it filled them and then some; it was a thing that I didn’t know needed to happen until it did, and I’m so glad that we’ve got a Rune Factory 5 confirmed, even if we don’t have a timescale yet. The classic story has been updated with some adorable married life content, the graphics and soundtrack got a beautiful overhaul without losing the charm of the original game, and the Another Episode DLC is a very cute little add-on, but I may be biased as I got it for free during the launch promotional period.

Verdict
A must-try for any farming sim/RPG fan, Rune Factory 4 Special is a worthy successor to the DS and Wii titles. It may be nostalgia speaking, but it’s my favourite game at the moment and I don’t see that changing any time soon.
10/10

Lego reveals exclusive Super Mario NES set

Having previously announced several interactive Lego Super Mario sets, a new exclusive set was revealed based on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Set 71374 Nintendo Entertainment System will contain a buildable NES console, Super Mario cartridge and a cathode ray tube television. The TV has a scrollable scenery reminiscent of level 1-1 of Super Mario and will be able to interact with Mario from the Lego Super Mario sets.

Slated for a release on the 1st of August 2020, the set will contain 2646 bricks and cost EUR €229.99, GBP £209.99, USD $229.99 . It will release on the same day as the Lego Super Mario sets.

Source lego.com

Minecraft Dungeons Review (Nintendo Switch)

  • Genre:  Roguelike, Dungeon Crawler
  • Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, PC
  • Developer | Publisher: Mojang Studios, Double 11
  • Age Rating: PEGI 7 | ESRB E
  • Price: UK £15.99 | US $19.99
  • Release Date: 26th May 2020

A review code was not provided, I purchased this with my own money and my opinions are based on my own experience.

Gameplay

Minecraft Dungeons is not like traditional Minecraft, you don’t even mine or build. Instead it is a hack and slash dungeon crawler in randomly generated levels. You try to get to the end of each level fighting monsters, finding treasures, and collecting weapons. There are many different types of weapons, bows, and armour. Some are familiar to minecraft players like a Sword and Pickaxe, but most are completely new. Each piece of equipment has random abilities which can be upgraded with enchantment points you gain from leveling up. You get special skills called artifacts, which you can equip 3 at once, they are usually support items with some offensive options.

You have more than 10 levels to select from and each can have different artifacts and weapons to obtain within them. Levels can be anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes long, so it isn’t something you can pull out real quick and put back away. Higher difficulty options are available after beating the game. Game can be played with players on Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, and PC through a Microsoft account. The whole game can be played with up to 4 players online, locally, or by yourself. Controls feel pretty good, everything makes sense where they are. My only complaint is that you can’t remap any of the buttons, but you will probably get used to it.

Graphics, Sound, and Performance

The graphics look nice, nothing mind blowing but really captures the essence of Minecraft and doesn’t look like they just built the world maps within Minecraft itself. The music is basically non-existent, there are sounds of explosions, items, and killing enemies, but you will almost never hear the music because it is too subdue. Performance is where this game really lacks. They game can become very laggy, frames will drop, and textures drop in resolution. Online is even worse, latency is a huge issue where you can hit an enemy and it won’t register till 1 second later which could mean life and death. Sometimes you will clip out of the world, enemies will spawn in unreachable locations, and even something as simple as skipping a cutscene will get you killed. Now a lot of these issues have been fixed slightly with updates. While it helps, it doesn’t completely fix everything, but I no point, it ruins my experience.

Difficulty

This game can get hard at times. It is never unfair, but you won’t be breezing through the whole game. Multiplayer doesn’t completely throw away the difficulty, yes it helps when more people are playing, but the game scales difficulty and number of enemies to how many players are playing. If you find this game too easy, the only way to increase it is after you beat the game, you unlock a higher difficulty, and one more after that for a total of 3. That might drive off a few players who are looking for a challenge, but the longer you stick around the harder it does get, with new weapons and more skills at higher levels. 

Conclusion

Minecraft is a good entry game for people who have tried dungeon crawlers. It isn’t as in-depth, skillful, or complicated as the others. It is a good game to sit back and relax without having to plan every move and at the risk of losing it all. Even though there is enough strategy to keep more skillful players here. With the game’s numerous bugs, and not being too revolutionary, you aren’t missing out on this one if you are a huge fan of dungeon crawlers. 

Verdict
Nothing mind blowing or revolutionary, but it was a pretty alright experience in the end. 
6.5/10

Animal Crossing New Horizons Summer Update 2

Starting 30 July the second summer update of Animal Crossing New Horizons will start rolling out. This update will offer three new features.

First off are Fireworks. Every Sunday in August at 7 PM the skies will be lit up with fireworks. You’ll even be able to use your own custom design as fireworks. Redd will be at the plaza selling raffle tickets for festive items.

Dreaming makes a reappearance after its introduction in Animal Crossing New Leaf. Taking a nap in a bed in your home may take you to a strange realm where you can meet Luna. She’ll offer to take you to another island in a dream and help you share your island as a dream as well. Since it’s a dream nothing is saved and you can explore to your heart’s content.

Finally, an Island Back-up and Restoration Service will be introduced. Switch players who have a Nintendo Switch Online membership will have the option to automatically upload island and user save data to the internet. If your Switch is lost or damaged you’ll be upload to restore your stored save data.

A free Autumn Update is planned as well.

Source nintendo.com

The Last Of Us Part II Review (PlayStation 4)

  • Genre: Action, Adventure, Horror
  • Developer|Publisher: Naughty Dog | Sony Interactive Entertainment
  • Age Rating: PEGI 18 | ESRB M (Mature)
  • Price: UK £49.99 | US $59.99
  • Release Date: 19th June 2020

No review code was provided. This was purchased by myself, and my full opinion based on a full comprehensive playthrough. Spoiler free!

Story/Characters

The Last Of Us Part 2 starts off with a bang. Literally, massive bang that will shake you to your core. Part 2 is set 5 years after the events of the first game. We are thrust straight back into the lives of the post apocalyptic duo Joel and Ellie. It seems Joel and Ellie are living comfortably in Jackson, though set outside those walls is now a desolate, survival of the fittest United States. Here in Jackson we meet new characters and old such as Dina, Jesse, Tommy and Maria. If you recall Tommy is Joel’s brother and Maria his wife.

Last Of Us 2 story is driven on revenge and retribution. In the prologue you will find a complicated matter with Ellie and Dina which the Jackson community isn’t so fond off and the introduction of the WLF – Washington Liberation Front. New character Abby arrives and this sets the tone of the game at full pace. Prior to the shock that happens in Jackson. Ellie knows what happened at the hospital and what Joel did 5 years ago. Ellie and Dina go after Tommy who is chasing after Abby. This is where we journey across Seattle and witness firsthand the struggles which lie ahead for all characters.

Gameplay

Shhh, don’t make a sound!

The gameplay to Last Of Us Part II is very fluid and easy to pick up and play. I must note, which Naughty Dog deserve massive credit for is the accessibility that the game has on offer. All players can play Last Of Us 2 wherever that be colour blind or remapping controller buttons and audio. That isn’t even the start of the accessibility options this game has at its disposal. Third person shooter with a mix of stealth which all nicely combines with one another. Again, it’s entirely upto you how you play the game. I mixed it up though preferred the stealth option more. The infected are deadly just as the WLF and Scars. Scars is another faction you will meet in the game. You can easily craft items on the spot with no loading screens, all running nice and seamlessly. Throughout Seattle you will encounter crafting benches which if you have been exploring and collecting scrap is to upgrade all your weapons. You can improve your skills by collecting pills and unlock new skills by finding magazines.

You can easily swap to weapons by pressing right or left on the d pad and up and down for items. It really pays to explore and collect as much items to craft things.

Graphics, sound and performance

Here comes Johnny, wait…

Part II is visually stunning. The characters look spot on and even when injured, ND have been really delicate to detail. Even though for me it isn’t the best looking game on PS4 as I still find God of War and Uncharted 4 the best visuals the PS4 has to offer.

The audio is top notch too. The clickers are still frightening but not as annoying as the stalkers. The noise the clickers make are just as eerie as the first game. Even throwing a brick or a bottle through glass sounds exactly like you would expect it too. Firing guns, crossbow, bow & arrow and thrown objects such as molotovs all sound tip top.

Performance wise the game never fails to disappoint. There has been a few times framerate dropped when going into different areas, but then again this would be expected to the contrary. The game is incredibly detailed I wouldn’t be surprised or shocked if the game did suffer a slight performance drop somewhere, however it hardly ever did throughout my time with the game.

Difficulty

Be one with nature.

I will be honest, I played on light difficulty. Seeing as when you do beat the game you will unlock new game +. All the upgrades and skills you have obtained goes straight over making it a bit easier for your second or third playthrough. Throughout the course of the game and the skirmishes you will encounter. I can see it being absolute nightmare to play on harder difficulties. The game itself isn’t exactly unforgiving as there is more options to aid you if you so wish to choose them. As long as you think accordingly and use your resources correctly, no fight will be a struggle and more of a nice stroll through the park.

Conclusion

Overall, The Last Of Us Part 2 is a very well made game. No doubt it will be down for Game of the year and win a string of awards like its coworker in the Sony Studios umbrella, God of War. The story is so brilliantly written that its been a while since a videogame makes you physically want to keep playing and find out what happens next. The twist and turns make it for a compelling fantasy and to see where Ellie’s journey takes her mentally and physically. As much as its superbly written, the game does out stay it’s welcome by dragging the story on for longer than it should. When you take control of Abby you will feel a lot of hatred, disgust at first. However, my opinion changed of her throughout the course of her journey, yet at the same time I felt like some parts of Abby’s back story was unnecessary and brings back to the game becoming more of a chore which was disappointing feeling.

Verdict

It is a must have game. Last Of Us 2 does open new boundaries for the LGBT community with a great participation in this game too. No matter what life could turn out to be. Everybody can still be themselves and to live equally. If you want a game that emotionally turns you, spin you around and hit you in the face repeatedly. The Last Of Us Part 2 is the game for you!

9/10