Dragon's Dogma 2 Review - Pawn Stars

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Dragon's Dogma 2 doesn't have a traditional fast-travel system. For most open-world games, this would be a death sentence--an affront to the player's valuable time. Yet somehow, Capcom has turned the absence of this quality-of-life feature into a resounding strength. It's the game's tremendous sense of adventure and discovery that accomplishes this. Every time you leave the relative safety of a village or city, there's no telling what will happen; you just know it has the potential to be spellbinding and will be well worth your time.

As a sequel, Dragon's Dogma 2 is an extension of everything the first game achieved 12 years ago. It's an enchanting open-world RPG with varied, exciting combat and a player-created companion system that's still unlike anything else. It doesn't do much beyond what the original did, but advancements in technology have enhanced its anomalous strengths, breathing new life into its massive open world and the ways in which you and everything around you can interact with it. New ideas and innovation might not be at the forefront, but the things it does are still relatively distinct.

After a brief but intriguing prologue, your adventure begins in the country of Vermund, a land of lush green forests, alpine peaks, and the flowing currents of its many winding rivers. The royalty and noblemen of Vermund reside behind the fortified walls of its capital city, and it's from this bustling location that you can board an oxcart to a small village in the north or a checkpoint city in the west. The latter sits on the border with Battahl, an arid land, home to the humanoid cat-like beastren, where gondolas provide an occasional route over the craggy canyons below. Beyond traveling via oxcart or climbing aboard one of these sky lifts, you're left to explore this sprawling world on foot, traversing dense forests blanketed by canopies that blot out the sun, elven ruins carved into the sides of mountains, and shifting sands bathed in harsh sunlight and circled by deadly harpies.

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Alone in the Dark - Before You Buy

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Alone in the Dark - Before You BuyAlone in the Dark (PC, PS5, Xbox Series X/S) is a return to the classic horror franchise. How is it? Let's talk. Subscribe for more: http://youtube.com/gameranxtv ▼ Buy Alone in the Dark 2024: https://amzn.to/3wUIR3S Watch more 'Before You Buy': https://bit.ly/2kfdxI6

Alone In The Dark Review - Dimly Lit

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When I think of the survival-horror genre’s best games, I often wonder if they were made better by their frequently unwieldy combat mechanics. The inability to reliably defend yourself heightened the terror in anti-power fantasies like Silent Hill, and the awkwardness of taking on the undead in Resident Evil became core to its tension. With that in mind, could a modern horror game benefit from having similarly janky self-defense systems? Alone in the Dark, the 2024 reboot project from THQ Nordic and Pieces Interactive, emphatically resolves this question for me; as it turns out, the answer is no--it's certainly worse off.

Alone in the Dark centers on characters and a haunted house all named the same as they were in the original 1992 game, but it mostly ditches that game's original story and old-school adventure game leanings in favor of a third-person, over-the-shoulder horror experience in line with modern counterparts. The game's writing pedigree flaunts Soma and Amnesia: The Dark Descent's Mikael Hedberg, and the story even plays out like an Amnesia game at times, to its credit. Much of what it does well is also derivative, but a larger issue is that it can’t do these aspects of the game well consistently. And all the while its worst parts are ceaselessly unenjoyable.

Chief among the blemishes is the aforementioned shoddy combat. There are three guns in total, and though wielding them feels cumbersome in the way a horror game wants to, so much else about dispatching monsters in the Derceto mansion’s hallways and bedrooms is a chore. Many enemies feel uniform in their behaviors and are often comically unaware or incapable of reaching you due to getting stuck on geometry or even each other when they show up in groups.

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Unicorn Overlord Review - A Rare Beast

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There are few gaming experiences more engrossing, engaging, and satisfying than a quality strategy-RPG. They offer the joy of building up a little ragtag army, bit by bit, into a gang of storied warriors with precision-specialized skills; the tension of seeing what sort of wrenches the next combat stage will throw into the mix; the utter thrill of eking out a victory with a wild strategy--or having an army that works so well together that they lay waste to all before them. Unicorn Overlord, the latest collaboration between developer Vanillaware and publisher Atlus, seeks its place among strategy-RPG royals--and, despite a few small missteps, lays claim to an honorable spot among its peers.

In its narrative, Prince Alain was spirited off to a faraway island a decade ago as his mother, the queen, was deposed from her throne by the wicked tyrant General Valmore and the Zenoiran Empire. Now, the Empire has all but conquered the continent of Fevrith, and an older Alain sets out to reclaim his throne and liberate the populace from their oppressors, all while bolstering the ranks of his Resistance army. But a mystery lies at the heart of everything: How did the Zenoiran Empire conquer all of the kingdoms so easily? Is there a much darker power at play?

The visuals in Unicorn Overlord dazzle right from the opening cutscene, with Vanillaware's well-loved 2D art bringing a detailed fantasy realm to life. There are a great many characters and environments throughout so there's plenty of variety to the eye candy--but even if that hadn't been the case, it would be hard to draw your eyes away from the attractive character designs, exquisite backgrounds, and weighty battle animations that are there. Occasionally, things can get a bit cluttered and confusing--some parts of the UI are messy to navigate--but after a while, it becomes no big deal.

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Contra: Operation Galuga Review - Corps Run

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More than almost any other game from its era, Contra made its name on being brutally difficult: a legacy with an impact that can still be felt today. Even cultural touchstones like the Konami Code owe at least some of their fame to the Contra series--after all, half the reason we memorized that particular sequence of button presses was to get extra lives for our battle against the alien hordes. With Contra: Operation Galuga, WayForward had a peculiar challenge: Sand off the rough edges of the original Contra to make it tolerable to modern audiences without losing the mystique that owes so much to its absurd difficulty. Thanks to some smart improvements, it's found an enjoyable balance, although it's not enough to elevate Galuga to greatness.

This is a retelling of the first game, which means that once again you're Contra operatives Bill and Lance dispatched to the island of Galuga to get to the bottom of strange goings-on there. After a slightly too-wordy introduction in Story mode, you're dropped right into the run-and-gun action, and despite looking and feeling very similar to the first game, the differences will quickly become apparent to series veterans. To start, you have a double jump by default, as well as a dash maneuver that can be used on the ground or in mid-air. Together, these make you much more nimble at dodging enemy fire, allow more room for error when crossing chasms, and turn combat into a quicker, more acrobatic experience.

Despite borrowing the most iconic weapons from the first three games--the Machine Gun, Spread, Laser, Flame Thrower, Homing, and Crush weapons--your arsenal has gotten an upgrade, too. Each signifies a considerable power boost from your default gun by itself, but each can also be upgraded by stacking another weapon pick-up on top of it. Picking up another Homing power-up when you already have Homing equipped makes it a Homing Lv 2, for example. Sometimes this extends the range or breadth of the weapon, like in the case of the Spread and Flame Thrower, while other times it can change a weapon's behavior more significantly. An upgraded Laser will ricochet off targets, while the upgraded Crush changes the weapon from an explosive missile to a firearm that opens small black holes that do continuous damage. And in a welcome quality-of-life tweak, picking up a new weapon will automatically replace a blank weapon slot if you have one. I spent half the game manually switching out of habit before I realized that little nice-to-have.

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