Dead Cells: Return To Castlevania Review - Pay ME Tribute

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I loved Dead Cells, but it never struck me as particularly Castlevania-like. The acclaimed action roguelike from Motion Twin certainly had some passing resemblance in some of its combat mechanics, but not so much that I ever made any association to Konami's vampire-hunting franchise. So when the studio announced it was making an expansion modeled after Castlevania, I was certainly intrigued, but also surprised. How would that work, exactly? Pretty well, it turns out, as Dead Cells: Return to Castlevania is a clever fusion of Castlevania homages and Dead Cells' structure, and helps to illustrate how Castlevania DNA has been a part of Dead Cells all along.

The similarities between the two are cut into stark relief by their differences. Castlevania, and especially the Symphony of the Night sub-genre that serves as the basis for most of this expansion, is an exploration-based action game, with a castle full of tightly-knit secrets and clockwork-like precision to its progression gating. Dead Cells very much isn't that, as its roguelike biomes mix and match different pieces like Lego bricks. You'll recognize certain pieces after you've played it enough, but it will always be impossible to draw a consistent map or to tell a friend exactly where to find a secret key. In this regard, they couldn't be more different.

So the blending in Return to Castlevania can best be described as Dead Cells doing its best Castlevania impression. The Castlevania biomes are still randomized in the roguelike style, but the pieces do feel more oriented around puzzle-solving and secrets than in the main Dead Cells game. In fact, that's one of Return to Castlevania's most impressive tricks--it's still built around interlocking pieces, but the more secret-solving components don't feel contained to small, individual parts. It's almost as if the game is building a fresh, albeit relatively small, Castlevania map every time you respawn.

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Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty - Before You Buy

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Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty - Before You BuyWo Long: Fallen Dynasty (PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S/One) is a souls-like RPG with some great twists on the formula. Let's talk about it! Subscribe for more: http://youtube.com/gameranxtv ▼ Video by Jake Baldino Buy Wo Long: https://amzn.to/3EQIl88 Watch more 'Before You Buy': https://bit.ly/2kfdxI6 #wolongfallendynasty

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty Review - Souls-Like Of The Three Kingdoms

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The first boss fight in Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is right up there with the toughest first bosses in video game history. This opening battle pits you against Zhang Liang of the Yellow Turbans, as you clash in a kinetic two-phase fight to the death. It's an intense skill check that challenges your prowess of Wo Long's mechanics almost immediately. In many ways, it feels like a rite of passage for the rest of the game and a bold statement of intent from developer Team Ninja. I initially loved how it forced me to adapt to the demands of the game's particular brand of Souls-like combat, yet the further I progressed, the more this feeling dissipated as I realized that this introductory struggle was little more than an unbalanced outlier, providing a much sterner test than the bosses following it.

For many, this sudden difficulty spike will be a barrier to entry, halting progress a mere 10 minutes into the game. It's a shame Wo Long begins with such a sturdy roadblock, not least because this initial undertaking isn't indicative of the rest of the game moving forward. In fact, outside of this first boss, Team Ninja has crafted one of the more approachable Souls-likes in what is a traditionally challenging genre.

I didn't encounter another boss fight on par with Zhang Liang's difficulty until roughly 15 hours into Wo Long's campaign. Most of the bosses in between were a relative cakewalk, to the point where I was able to cut down each one on my first attempt--usually in under a minute. I still had fun dispatching every single one, but the ease with which I was able to do so makes them lose some of their luster and reinforces the notion that the first boss is at odds with the rest of the game. The battle with Zhang Liang sets up expectations that never come to fruition, particularly when other fights allow you to summon help from either AI or human teammates.

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