When I think of casual games I usually think of games that are relaxing, stress-free, usually offer a good story and characters, and have a great world to explore. With mobile games, this is true as well, but I feel that despite how great Assemble with Care is it’s held back by the casual game constraints too much. The mechanics and idea of taking apart devices and fixing them is an itch that games like House Flipper and PC Building Simulator scratch, and when I saw Assemble with Care I thought it was going to be the same. The fact that a voiced narrative is included was just a bonus.
You play as a female hobbyist repair woman who travels to Belariva for a vacation and relaxation when she ends up getting involved in the town’s squabbles. She runs into a mayor and his daughter and a cafe owner and her sister. She is the key to get each party to resolve their family issues and of course, her tinkering helps that. The story itself is well voiced and UsTwo games are well known for gorgeous visuals and unique gameplay, but the game falls short here. Every chapter, out of thirteen, has a device you need to disassemble and fix and it’s really neat. I couldn’t wait to get the next device as they did get slightly more intricate as you went on, but the game handicaps itself by allowing snapping of parts that are allowed only in one spot so it’s not really a puzzle anymore. The biggest challenge came in disassembly as there’s no much to tell you how to do this.
Various devices range from a GameBoy Advance SP, a watch, a music box, a record player, a portable cassette player, and others. You get everything you need laid out in front of you such as a screwdriver and cables or various parts to repair the item. Long pressing allows you to take things apart and there is a swiping motion for screwing things in and out. You can rotate the device as every side needs to be inspected. Most of these puzzles can be completed in just a few minutes and each chapter has voice dialogue at the beginning and end.
The art is great in both the story stills and the 3D graphics of the objects. Bright watercolor drawings and flat pastel textures just pop on the screen. I didn’t want the game to end, however. I felt like more chapters could be added as the story isn’t memorable but entertaining and a bit touching. I still wanted to know the fate of each party’s families and for less than an hour of gameplay, UsTwo did a great job with the storytelling. Sadly, once the game is over there’s no reason to go back at all. The puzzles will never change and they’re way too easy to be replayed. I wish the puzzles weren’t as easy and had more intricate and smaller parts or just something more complicated.
UsTwo’s next game is a small adventure game where you play as a girl named Alba who is trying to save the local wildlife reserve from corporate hotel moguls. You run around the island trying to gain 50 signatures on a petition to give to the mayor in hopes it will stop the construction. The main gameplay loop of the game is taking photos of 62 different animals on the island via your phone and scanning them with an app. Other objectives include picking up trash, restoring birdhouses and feeders, and rescuing animals from toxic chemicals.
The island is broken up into small areas so it’s easier to navigate and find where you need to go. Side quests have a green arrow and main objectives have gold ones on the map. The entire game is broken up into three days and you will complete most of the game within two hours fairly easily. Sadly, most of the game is running around back and forth between areas with very little to actually do. Picking up trash and fixing items is about all there is to do here. You can also replace photos on info boards, but most everything is done during the main story as you will come across every area at some point. You can talk to most of the townsfolk, but they have nothing important to say except to waste your time as per NPC regulations. They don’t even offer side quests which feel odd.
I did enjoy taking photos of the animals as tracking them was a lot of fun, but sometimes there is just one bird you can’t find somewhere to complete a side objective and it’s quite irritating and frustrating. While the idea of respecting nature and animals is a great message to get across in a game I felt nothing for the characters as there wasn’t enough time to do any world-building. For most of the game, you’re just trying to get the 50 signatures and nothing really happens until the last 20 minutes of the game. For such a large island I felt there could have been more to do with maybe some mini-games or more side objectives. Even adding more animals that aren’t 90% birds would have been nice as well. Animals are categorized into rarity, but I don’t see how this has any bearing as there’s not point or rating system for finding these animals. Hell, there isn’t even an achievement for finding all the animals in the game!
The game at least looks really pretty and the low-poly art style with bright vivid colors is great. The game has good lighting effects and the sound effects of animals everywhere are a nice touch. Alba controls well as she runs around the island and I didn’t run into any bugs or crashes of any kind. However, on my iPhone 12 Pro Max, I still ran into frequent slowdown especially when zoomed in on the phone. This phone is more than capable of running this game at 60FPS stable, but it needs better optimization. You will end up seeing what the entire game offers in the first 30 minutes of the game, but that’s not to say this game is boring. Two hours is probably just the right length, to be honest as any more and it would overstay its welcome due to the lack of things to do. I highly recommend this game to young players for the message it delivers and any gamer for just a relaxing and chill game.
When I first saw Builder’s Journey the first thing that popped into my mind was Monument Valley. It looks similar with a bright and colorful art style, no voice acting, and a story told through actions. It features small spinnable tower-like levels that only take a couple of minutes to solve. The game is imaginative and a nice departure from the typical movie license LEGO games we get from Traveler’s Tales. It’s relaxing, fun, and feels like you’re using Legos to get around these levels to reach your destination.
You play as a boy and his father who essentially are trying to take down some evil company the dad works for. The game is so short that there isn’t time for a feel-good story or emotions to set in, but the game at least tries. You pick up lego pieces and set them down on the round pegs like you would in real life. You hold the pick-up button to let go and that’s about it. You can spin the level a little bit, but the great thing about this game is there’s no preset design you need to follow. You get a few pieces and the puzzle is to figure out how to put them together with the limited pegs in the level to get your characters across. Each character has two orange platform pieces that you use for them to hop around on. Sometimes you need to build something, but the game gets tough towards the end.
Puzzles towards the end involve two screens in which you need to either place blocks a certain way or get blocks to the other screen in a certain way. Each area has maybe five puzzles before the next idea is brought in. One idea is using race track-type pieces with curves and straights to get across on a roller skate. Another idea is using blocks to grow more are you put them down. It’s all very imaginative and never gets boring or old. The game has a “just one more puzzle” feel to it. You get breaks in between with a scripted puzzle that just requires putting a few pieces together, but it’s a nice break. I did have issues placing and dropping blocks as the camera would be at a weird angle. The blocks do snap over the pegs they need to go in, but sometimes I just couldn’t get it positioned right and required fiddly placement.
There were a few occasions in which where to go in the level wasn’t obvious or my character wouldn’t start hopping across the level because a certain block was too high or too far away and I couldn’t figure out which one. The levels that take this kind of trial and error are frustrating and ruin the pacing, but thankfully there were only a few. I also feel that this game could have been made without the Lego branding. While it feels and looks charming, generic blocks would have worked just as well too. There’s nothing that the Lego branding brings to this game to make it feel unique.
That’s basically it to the entire game. It ends in 90 minutes as it was originally designed for iOS devices with 5-10 minute pick-up-and-play sessions. There is an RTX option for PC, which is super weird for this kind of game, and it looks okay, but why cut your frames in half for a game like this? There are only a few levels that use light that uses RTX, so it feels kind of pointless. Other than that the game looks great and the physics are also good as well. I highly recommend this game if you want a zen-like relaxing puzzle game to kill a couple of hours. It’s not memorable, but it sure is fun.
I would have to say this is the first “adult” game I’ve ever played that’s actually good and can be considered a game. Most are shameless excuses for games just to throw nudity up on the screen, but Lust From Beyond does it with a purpose as it’s part of the story. You pay as Victor who ends up having dreams that teleport him to the world of Luust’ghaa. This is a land of lust that is ruled by strange gods who want to bring everyone to the Land of Ecstasy. You end up going back and forth between these two worlds, Luust’ghaa is a puzzle-solving world with little combat, and then the current world is mostly sneaking around and opening new paths. This is a Lovecraftian game all the way through and it’s what lured me in. The art design is also inspired by H.R. Giger’s work as well (Aliens).
I won’t beat around the bush or hide it. The main selling point for Lust is the hardcore sex scenes throughout the game, but when I say throughout I mean spread out across the entire game. It’s done tastefully and is actually part of the story. With this occult worshipping a god of lust they partake in orgies, torture, and maiming, dismemberment, and all sorts of horrible acts. The game is incredibly violent and disturbing. You have sex with mutilated bodies, strange monsters, and it’s also pretty entertaining and fascinating to see this used in a halfway decent game. There are only a handful of sex scenes in the game and they are key points in the story. To get to Luust’ghaa you have to feel extreme pleasure to transport there.
However, this is an adventure game with light combat, so there is some light puzzle solving, but most of the game is running around labyrinthine levels collecting baubles and keys to open doors. Sneaking around is mostly done early in the game when you learn of a rival cult that split and tried to use the opening of Luust’ghaa to their advantage. This is the most disturbing part of the game where there’s lots of gore and strange sexual encounters. Sneaking in this game is pretty easy but still tense. If you stay crouched nothing can hear you no matter how close you are. There are a few chase scenes, some bosses in fact, and you do get a gun towards the end of the game to use in small parts. Overall, the game never got boring as the gameplay was always tossed up, but I didn’t care for the Luust’ghaa levels. It looks gross and creepy with shiny flesh everywhere, but after a while, it was just the same boring corridors to find ways to open doors. Sometimes I used a lever to move a block, but mostly they get boring. Nothing really happens in these levels as there really isn’t much storytelling here. It feels like an excuse to fill the game out.
I also felt that having the power of Essence felt like a waste of time as you only use it towards the end of the game. You can find Essense pools and use them to raise bridges and lure gross monsters near tumors that it can absorb to open a pathway. It just felt like silly filler content and a pointless gameplay mechanic. However, I did like the creature and enemy design. Overall the entire game looked pretty good and the art direction was great. The atmosphere was very memorable and I feel like I will remember this game for a long time. The characters however are something to be desired. The voice acting is spotty, and I could tell they tried to make these characters stand out, but you don’t spend a lot of time with them and their backgrounds aren’t explored enough. Victor is a cookie-cutter protagonist who is trying to find his girlfriend and save her and then disregards everything just for her. That whole story is cliche and gets old and tiring. I also wish the lore was explored more. What’s here is solid and you get an overall sense of what these gods of lust can do and the cult’s basic history, but instead, we get filler levels of boring key finding.
But can Lust stand out without the hardcore uncensored sex scenes? Yes, it actually can. Even the censored mode works because the game isn’t built around sex and gore. While it helps and adds to the atmosphere you can still enjoy the story and game without all of it. There are a few plot twists in the game that surprised me, and I played the game straight through to the end it was entertaining enough. However, the only time I wanted to quit was when another Luust’ghaa level came up because I knew I was in for more boring corridors and key finding and lever pulling. At least it’s not too easy to get lost or not know what to do. Occasionally I missed a ladder or had to quickly learn the layout of a level because of the number of enemies around, but somehow it just all works.
Overall, Lust From Beyond is a surprisingly decent adventure game with tons of atmosphere, dark horror, and excellent enemy design. The shock value of sex, gore, and dismemberment is second-hand to the entertaining story and levels, and that’s okay. There is a bonus called the Chamber of Pleasure that are just rooms with two sex scenes each, a few not in the game, and that’s just there I guess. Doesn’t really add to the value of the game as a whole. I just want to say don’t go into this game thinking it’s sex every 10 seconds. It’s spread out and used to advance the story or be part of it.
Sumire is a beautifully made game with charming visuals and well-written dialog. While you can finish the game in about 3 hours it’s quality content and I was moved and touched by the story. You play as a young girl named Sumire who has recently lost her grandmother. The death split your parents up and made them distant and you feel like your life is falling apart. One night, a magical seed flies through your bedroom windows and you befriend a magical talking flower who only has one day to let you see your grandmother again.
The game is in a 2D sidescrolling style game, but there’s no-platforming here. This is a typical adventure game, but there really aren’t many objectives and there’s no obscurity or cryptic puzzles here. In fact, there are no puzzles and very few characters to interact with. There is a map with a few areas you can fast travel around to, but there is a good and bad deed system set in place that can change the ending of the story. The game really focuses on being good to people, being the mature one in a situation, and realizing that life is finite. It’s pretty heavy stuff.
Early in the game, you come across creatures you can do good things for which aren’t complicated. Give a scarecrow a hat, give a frog a bug to eat, but what bug you chose will determine a good or bad deed. Other larger objectives have you delivering things to people from other people and these are pretty much done as the story progresses. The first half of the game is spent wandering around collecting a few coins to spend and spend them wisely, on yourself or other people. There are a couple of mini-games thrown in for good measure, but the second half of the game picks up the pace quite a bit as the story concludes.
The music is also fantastic and really gets the heartstrings plucking as you really feel for these characters and Sumire’s understanding of death and just that in life you have to let things go, things end, and death is permanent. Her constant reliance on the flower is also sad and it’s just wishful thinking and false hopes. Sumire also sorts out a love relationship and has to solve her bully issue with three girls who constantly pick on her. It’s stuff every teen goes through in life and it really brought me back to mine. Thankfully, I never felt lost or wondered what to do next as you just move left all the time and the story unfolds itself.
Usually, I frown at games that are this short, but if they have a lot to show in such a short time I’m happy. Sumire has a great story that’s short, but really makes you think back to your teen years and early 20’s of having to face life alone for the first time and realizing every action you do matters and affects you until the day you die. So many life lessons are tossed in here at rapid-fire but dealt with in a touching manner. However, there still isn’t much of a game here. You walk around, collect coins, talk to animals and creatures, do a few small fetch quests, and then move on with the story. It’s satisfying and fun, but I felt the side quests were a bit pointless. It’s not like you have a heavy dialog with these creatures and you come back to them later. It did feel a bit like filler to me.
Overall, Sumire is a beautifully crafted game with great music, heavy dialog that can be really touching and nostalgic, and it just feels like a good wholesome game in the end. It’s relaxing, doesn’t expect too much out of you, and after a few hours, you get a nostalgic trip back to your teens and early 20’s when life just got started.
I’m not much of a visual novel fan. I love reading books and grew up reading a lot, but visual novels are basically just digital manga, and I prefer traditional manga. I bought VA-11 Hall-A years ago and never got around to it because there’s so much reading. What got me interested was the bartending aspect. It seemed like a fun time-management mini-game mixed in and I was completely wrong. However, the strongest point with this game is the fun characters and how invested in their stories I became.
You play Julianne Stingray, a bartender in a cyberpunk world setting nearly 100 years in the future. The bar is close to getting shut down and you’re just living life day-to-day until that time comes. The game is pretty slow-paced and takes quite a while to pick up and get interesting. There’s a lot of character setup and it takes such a long time so it feels natural and organic rather than rushed. There isn’t really any gameplay. I spent more time clicking through dialog than anything else, but I did like all the characters. They were fun, unique, and had great personalities that I got attached to. If I were to say there was an ultimate goal it would be to make amends with your ex-girlfriend who you got into a fight with years ago and need to apologize to, but honestly, this is a slice-of-life type of game. You really only need to just read through everything.
You do earn money at the end of every day and this can be spent on items to keep Jill focused at her job. There will be a hint when you get to your apartment as to what she might want. If you don’t buy this item she won’t remember what customers order and you have to remember yourself. There are also major bills that have to be paid so you need to spend wisely. There is also an optional phone you can view with various news apps. Just some insight into the world really and nothing that matters towards the main story. There is an option to customize your apartment a bit, but it seemed superfluous in the end and pointless.
As you talk to patrons you have to make their drinks. This seemed fun at first, but it quickly becomes dull and stale by day three in the game. There is a recipe book full of 24 different drinks you can make and you can filter them by flavor and type. Patrons will give hints as to what they want and you sometimes even have to read the descriptions to get cryptic ones correct. Drinks are made with artificial chemicals in this world and you have five. There are squares that fill up with each measurement and you can mix or blend the drink and age it or add ice. That’s literally it. I thought you could upgrade the bar and add new flavors and devices, but this is it. You end up cycling through all 24 drinks early on and maybe 10 repeats constantly. It ends up no longer being fun to make these drinks and just interrupts the story. There are also no instructions on the difference between mixing and blending. You need to count how many times the shaker wiggles and if it starts going fast…that’s blended. If you mess up a drink you lose a bonus at the end of the day. However, you can’t serve messed-up drinks as the game won’t let you. Some drinks allow you to add synthetic alcohol as much or as little as you want and this is supposed to change the story somehow…by making characters spill things when they’re drunker, but I never saw this happen.
The one game mechanic in an otherwise interactive visual novel is boring and somewhat pointless. If there was a much larger selection of drinks, or if I could add some later, or upgrade equipment, that would be fun, but what’s here feels half-assed and tacked on. I also don’t like how we never get to know what’s going on in the world. The game hints at things happening politically and with various corporations, and even a hacking group, but we get nothing in that regard. It’s mostly just what’s going on inside the bar and the characters you meet; it stays very local and centralized. I also felt the visuals while artistically beautiful were boring to look at. There isn’t any change in scenery and the static anime-style characters just change facial expressions. It’s very hard to stare at the same background for nearly a dozen hours and make dozens upon dozens of repeated drinks just to stay invested in a character’s story. If it weren’t for the great characters this game would be utterly boring nonsense.
With that said, VA-11 Hall-A is only worth getting into if you love anime, visual novels, or just like reading books. The bartending aspect is a poorly throughout afterthought that hinders the progress of the story rather than helps it due to the small recipe size and laughable mechanics. I really liked the characters here, and the story ended on a nice note. I expected some sort of twist ending where the bar would close early, or the hackers would take over all the androids and something interesting would happen, but we just get a slice-of-life anime-style bartending experience.
Strangeland starts out with you playing like a man I a straight jacket inside a carnival of sorts. The art style is dark, dreary, depressing, and looks great. The point-and-click adventure pixel art of yesteryear looks great and I love this style of visuals. As you talk to the talking entranceway you gain entry to the main area of the game and like every adventure game ever made you progress by exploring, talking to people, and picking up objects.
The main goal of Strangeland is to fight something called The Dark Thing and you are trying to find a golden-haired woman who you think is your lover, but you aren’t sure. You can acquire hints for the game at any time by using the payphone in the main area and this is a really big help. There isn’t much to the controls as you just walk around picking up items, some might need to be combined, and figure out where to use them.
The largest downside to Strangeland is its complete lack of world or character building. Each character speaks in pointless riddles that have no meaning and I don’t understand why. This world looks interesting and I want to learn about it, but it’s so short, about three hours long, and there are so few characters that I feel I have rushed along to the end. Even the ending didn’t really make much sense after all of what you go through feels pointless. It’s not really hard to figure out what items go where you don’t get that many, but there are a few puzzles in the game and they don’t feel like puzzles. I just randomly clicked around and solved them, so there’s that.
This is also a very small world. There are many 8 main screens you visit, and the second half of the game reuses these screens when you are in Deadland. And again, I can’t stress how awesome the art is. There’s gore, gross fluids, strange pits that lead to nowhere, and sadly it’s all smushed into this tiny play area with not much to do. It’s not possible to get lost, and once you exhaust all the dialog options with a character you can no longer talk to them. Your ultimate goal is to kill The Dark Thing, and I believe the ending had a choice, but I wasn’t sure. It ended so abruptly and unsatifactorily that I just shrugged in the end. I really enjoyed the art and the voice acting, but that’s all there really is to the game.
In the end, Strangeland is so short that I don’t have a lot to say about it. It looks good, it’s not super cryptic like most adventure games are, and the voice acting is good, but the story just doesn’t make sense and we never get to know more about the characters. What is Strangeland? Why am I here? How did I get here? Why am I in a straight jacket? Nothing is answered or explored which is the main reason adventure games exist. To explore a world and story and characters. This feels like mostly an art exhibit and nothing more.
I love post-apocalyptic anything. Just the curiosity of wondering what would happen when a man is on the brink of extinction is morbid yet fascinating. Beautiful Desolation takes the isometric point and click of yore and brings it to life with over 40 fully voiced and wonderfully designed characters and a time warping story. The game starts out with you, Mark Leslie, arguing with his wife about someone whose emotional mess you have to clean up. Suddenly a giant object slams into the ground from the sky and brings about the apocalypse with machines. You are now trying to find a way to figure out what the Penrose, the giant object, is and how to stop it from changing the world. The only issue is that doesn’t go as planned and you are warped an unknown amount of years into the future and must stop factions from fighting and chose between groups of characters.
Choices mostly matter before the ending of the game. There are several groups of characters, some warring with each other, and some just single characters that don’t offer any rewards, and you must decide what happens to them all. You fly around an overhead map in your Buffalo transport and objectives are obtained by talking to characters. Each area is small and linear and there’s usually only one person to talk to in each area. The characters are really well done and the style of the game feels like a mid-90’s Fallout with pre-rendered animations in a box and the text appears below it. The characters look amazing from robots to weird fleshy things to plants and various lifeforms. There’s tons of imagination in this game and even the environments look amazing. However, there’s not much else when it comes to exploring.
When you land in an area you will most likely find things that need to be used or find things that need something to be used with. Sometimes a character might need an item, or they might need you to solve a large issue that decides the fate of their race or faction. The issue here is that objectives are so obtuse and cryptic and you can easily miss an option to solve a large problem. For example, you need to ultimately find three items to restart the array to let you back on the Penrose to go home. One item needed is Red Mercury. There are two ways to obtain this and depending on your choices once will always be cut off. There is also one route that lets you fight a few bosses via a weird arcade game. You need tokens to put combatants in this machine. You need at least three tokens to even bother and that’s never explained. To get these tokens you must choose one of three outcomes for a few factions, or the fourth outcome gives you Red Mercury for the array. I wound up missing two of these and only got two tokens in the game so the item I needed from the final boss for the arcade game to get Red Mercury was cut off.
This long string of outcomes that are hidden is a little unfair. I also accidentally decided a fate without even knowing that option would do that and I wasn’t given a second chance. I decided the fate of two factions early on and wound up doing the opposite because I didn’t realize clicking a certain option would launch that decision and it was too late. There are also some items that need to be bought to progress and you need credits that are exchanged for gold. To acquire gold you need to find them hidden in certain areas by just wandering around. This was also something never explained and for a while, I couldn’t figure out how to get credits. There are also some bogus items that you can waste credits on, so I’m not sure if you can end up not finishing the game because you have found all the gold and don’t have enough credits. There’s only so much gold in the game and there’s not much.
One of my biggest gripes is needing to talk to certain characters before something would advance. Icons on the map flash if there is a new dialog for a character, but that’s if you have already done something to trigger that. It won’t flash for items not discovered or anything like that. I had to use a walkthrough through most of the game because there were times I felt l made progress and the next character would give me zero hints on where to go next. Some objectives I could figure out alone, but 90% needed a walkthrough. Just because the game looks mid-90’s doesn’t mean it needs to play like it. It still didn’t stop me from looking forward to the next area and character to talk to as they are so unique and interesting.
Overall, Beautiful Desolation is a well-written and very stylized post-apocalyptic adventure game with lots of nostalgic feelings of the mid-’90s. However, the insane amount of cryptic and obtuse objectives makes the game very frustrating without a guide. I also didn’t like how often you would start feeling like you’re making progress and then get stopped dead at every turn with the only option is to wander around every area until you notice something you missed, and as the game progresses that can take forever. You end up unlocking over 50 areas towards the end and going back to them all is insane. I love the voice acting, the art style, and the story itself, but it’s so unfair and stops you dead in your tracks at every turn. Progress is incredibly grindy here and not to mention the major decisions in the game can easily be missed or skipped over.
I love the Warhammer series a lot. My first introduction was a small figure I was given as a gift in junior high back in 2003. I had a friend who was really into the series and painted the figures and was all in. My parents couldn’t afford the figures so I turned to video games. My first experience was Dawn of War. One of the best RTS games ever made. Then…that was it. I then played Dawn of War II and then Space Marine, but was still fascinated by the lore, art style, and designs. This comes across well in Hired Gun. The game is oozing with style and tons of steampunk design. Weird mutilated bodies everywhere that are full of strange tech, gross underground sewers, and tons of violence and gore. The game looks amazing, but that’s probably the best thing about the game.
It was advertised as Doom set in the Warhammer universe and this it is not. When you start the game you pick your avatar and difficulty and you are off with just a revolver. Right away you take in the amazing art and visual design the series is known for. Then within a few minutes, you can start shooting and moving and that’s when everything falls apart. Now, at first, the gunplay seems fun. It’s fast-paced, punchy, and the guns feel pretty good to shoot. Then at the end of the first level, you are already tired of it because there’s nothing else to do. Every single level is shoot everything that moves through poorly designed levels. Now the art is nice, but the actual design and layout of the levels are terrible. Tons of endless corridors to nowhere, hidden treasure chests that are not interesting enough to find, credits, and places to jump around and wall run on. Yes, it’s fast-paced and feels pretty good, but it’s so boring.
Another issue I have is that enemies spawn at random places and there’s no pattern. You run around an arena shooting everything in sight and when you go pick something up an enemy dropped another is shooting you from behind even though everyone came out of the same door on the opposite side of the room. It can lead to cheap deaths as you get a shield to protect your health and you can buy stims to revive you if you die. There are grenades that can clear crowds, but overall the layout of the levels just doesn’t help. I can jump around everywhere but what’s the point if everyone spawns randomly.
Some levels mix up arenas where you are locked in a room and heavy metal music plays until everything is dead, and then there are just endless linear hallways where you mow down more enemies. Enemies splatter and gib in Unreal Tournament-style glory, but they are not interesting to look at or fight. Everything dies in a few hits and each weapon seemed to do the same damage except for when it came to distance. The game shoehorns an RPG system into the game that feels completely pointless and useless. There are charms, armor, tokens, and various other bits that can be collected, but they can’t be equipped until your next mission. So, why bother with an RPG system if it can only be accessed between missions? Once you finish a mission you’re rated (who cares). You can then complete side missions for greater challenges and better loot, but no thank you. The main missions are drab enough as it is.
Once you complete a mission you can then chose what loot to keep and the rest is sold. Once you arrive at the main hub there are various vendors that allow you to buy and sell weapons and then also bionics on you and your dog. Yes, you get a dog companion that attacks for you, but that’s it. The bionics are bought with credits and you can acquire various powers that kind of help a bit, but mostly you’ll just shoot everything. This is the main gameplay loop. Shoot everything through levels with nothing in between, fight an occasional boss, and build up your arsenal and bionics. The gameplay itself isn’t just boring but so is the story. Now, I’m no Warhammer guru, but with previous games, you kind of get some lore thrown at your real quick to understand your surroundings, but here you just fight this gang and that gang and work for this person. There’s no context. The voice acting is okay, but there’s no reason to care.
Overall, Necromunda had potential and it was squandered with a forced loot system, boring story and gameplay loop, and terribly designed levels. I love the visuals and the lore behind the series, but this game just doesn’t do it justice. If it was a straight-up linear corridor shooter with more thought put into the weapons, enemies, and level design it would have been better. Also, the whole looter shooter thing needs to stop at some point. No one can get it right and it’s widely overused. Sometimes less is more and Necromunda proves that.
I have tried to play this game since it was released numerous times and just couldn’t get into it. After putting 110 hours into the Mass Effect Legendary Edition recently, I decided it was finally time to blow through it. After 40 hours I can say that the game is more enjoyable than I first realized, but also has more flaws than I imagined. Most of the major visual bugs are patched out at this point, but what remains is the core game that can never change or improve without an actual sequel.
I love the premise of Andromeda. The game takes place 600 years after the events of the original trilogy and that’s because a private company sent every species known to Council space out on several arks to the Andromeda galaxy and establish lives on then discovered “golden worlds”. Everyone stays in cryostasis while an illegal AI named SAM watched over all the arks. You play as Ryder who wakes up to the human ark being hit by something called the Scourge. This is a space phenomenon that honestly is never really explored or explained in the game. Strange tendrils reach out and destroy worlds and ships. Your brother also ends up in a coma as his pod was damaged during the incident.
This is where you learn the basic controls and how to interact with the world. The core ideas and gameplay loop of Mass Effect are intact. You can read datapads, talk to people for extra information and story, but in the end, your conversation choices make zero difference in the story. Whoops. I’ll get to that later. Once you finally try to explore the first golden world you realize it’s not. The Scourge changed it somehow and all the golden worlds are no longer habitable. This sense of fear is something I wish the game touched on more. Being lost and stranded in space with no way back home is a really great idea, but they never play upon this much. Once you land not the first planet you learn how to do everything else. Controlling Ryder is a breeze and the character is nimble, has a jetpack to jump around on ledges, can infinite sprint, and the shooting is more akin to standard third-person cover shooter gameplay, but barely.
Let’s go over the combat. Sadly, Mass Effect 3 had more satisfying combat than Andromeda. It plays well, but it’s very generic and just gets the job done. Once again, like in Mass Effect 1, there’s too much loot. Weapon mods, augmentations, armor, armor mods, minerals, random collectibles, etc. This means while each weapon looks unique, they don’t feel too unique. A shotgun feels like a shotgun, an assault rifle feels like an assault rifle. They just picked a center lane or each weapon type and stuck with that. Games like Gears of War have weapons that have their own unique personality. They are almost a character among themselves. At least in Mass Effect 3, the weapons had punch and weight to them, while these do not. The combat is mostly boring and the same enemies repeat forever. You have the kett, Remnant, and the usual raiders. The kett are the main enemy as you are trying to stop the Archon from using this Remnant tech to destroy worlds. More on that later. Then the Remnant is just generic boring robots. Each faction has different enemy types, but the game, in general, is pretty easy and I rarely ever died, even during boss fights.
The biggest change in Andromeda is being able to explore actual planets. There are quite a few here and they are actually really fun to explore. There are many side missions that involve your crew, and there are tasks, but honestly just exploring and doing the main missions was the most fun I had in the game. The open maps feel like major filler and while the worlds look beautiful, and the new vehicle you get is much better to control and it can get upgrades, but no combat, it’s 90% filler. There are tasks you can complete, but most don’t have objective markers so you either have to wander around aimlessly looking for these or use a walkthrough. In the end, most missions don’t give you any rewards at all outside of XP. Unless you are a completionist there is zero reasons to stray outside of the main missions. This is really a bummer and most of Andromeda is just filler with no real rewards or pay-off.
There are also way too many things to keep track of. AVP missions, R&D, buying and selling, modding, unlocking cryo pods teams to bonuses. It’s just too much. AVP missions are pointless as you just send teams out to complete missions for you. There’s a co-op multiplayer section tied in here, but why bother? The rewards out pointless. Andromeda tries to create an economy and ultimately fails as it doesn’t need one. The game is too easy, so most of the weapons are useless. Once you get a level five weapon your good. I had one of each weapon and the mods are nice, they actually do help, but this meant I never needed to buy anything after the second world was finished. I mostly collected too many minerals on missions that I just R&Ded the weapon I wanted and that was it. I needed research points to research the weapon and then I could develop it. I also found most rare weapons as loot. By the time I got the third and fourth world, I stopped caring about all that and ignored it. I just continued to level up. Another thing I don’t like is elemental ammo is now expendable and you need to acquire it as it’s limited. It was hard to keep track of when I was using it as there’s no sound or icon flashing that shows me when it’s gone. The icon just disappears.
So the main reason you explore these worlds is to establish a base and to clear each world’s hazardous conditions by activating three Remnant monoliths and then the vault. The monoliths sometimes require you to solve a sudoku-type puzzle using glyphs. Yep, I sighed at that too. At least it’s a real puzzle, but why do we need these? They just slowed the game down and some are insanely difficult. Once you get into the vault you activate consoles to get a path to the purifier console then run out as the gas chases you. You do this about six or seven times and it gets more boring as you complete each one. One thing I did like was seeing each race and how they fit into the Andromeda Initiative. It really feels like a reboot of the series while keeping the core of it intact, sometimes too intact.
That leads me to the main reason why most people felt so engrossed in the original trilogy: The choices. The dialogue is now split up into five emotions and the binary moral system is gone, but each choice doesn’t really do anything. The only thing you can really control is who you form a relationship with. There is so much dialog and so many choices, but they mean nothing in the end and that is one of the major problems with the game itself. I enjoyed the story itself, and the personalities and politics of the races remained intact and were in full force here, but my character was probably better off just not having any dialog choices. That would have been a bold new move rather than keep a system that is hollow in the end. And essentially that’s what Andromeda is. A bunch of systems from the trilogy that is either just there because it’s familiar and don’t do anything new, or is just there for no particular reason. This leads me to the Galaxy Map. BioWare just can’t get it right, even four games later. Sure, you are actually on a map this time and can zoom across the system and it’s pretty cool for the first few times, then you want to skip it after that. It’s slow and uninteresting after a while, and there’s no reason to explore most planets outside of reading their description. Sometimes you can launch a probe when Suvi announces an anomaly, but that’s it. So while the map is visually more impressive, it’s still pointless.
The visuals are outstanding as the game uses EA’s Frostbite engine, but the game is horribly optimized. Frame drops happened mostly in cut scenes and in random areas. Sometimes dropping into single digits. It didn’t matter if it was on an overclocked RTX 2080 or an overclocked 1660ti. Both exceed the minimum requirements exponentially. The game still looks good with detailed textures and models and I can’t explain just how beautiful the worlds are. I really felt like a space pioneer when exploring them. Overall, Andromeda is only worth a play-through for hardcore fans. If you just pick up this game you’re going to get bored and not feel interested. It’s clearly geared towards fans of the series as a lot of events carry over from previous games and the knowledge of the races and events that took place to reflect a lot in this game.