FIFA 23 Review - Football Is Life

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FIFA 23 marks the end of an era for the long-running series. After an almost 30-year partnership that began with players like David Platt gracing the cover, EA Sports has parted ways with football's governing body over a licensing disagreement. Future games in the series will now drop the FIFA name in favor of a new EA Sports FC moniker. Not that you'd be able to tell from playing FIFA 23, mind you. Despite being the last game adorned with the household name, it's business as usual both on and off the pitch for EA's latest footballing sim. There are a few new additions spread across its various game modes--and Ultimate Team sees its most significant change in years--but for the most part, FIFA's swansong is a game of minor iterations.

This begins once you step out onto its exquisitely rendered grass, with the introduction of HyperMotion2 ensuring that each and every match in FIFA 23 looks and feels more authentic and immersive. This innovative technology first appeared in last year's game and allowed the developers to motion capture all 22 players in a real-life match. By capturing every minute detail and context-specific action across a full 90 minutes and implementing it into FIFA's gameplay, there was a plethora of new animations that edged the simulation closer to reality. With HyperMotion2, FIFA 23 simply expands on its predecessor by obtaining even more data from both full-length matches and training sessions with professional teams. This means that players move across the pitch, collide with each other, and strike the ball with increased fluidity and an added sense of realism.

The impact this has on gameplay is palpable, most notably in regards to the game's overall pace. I said the same thing last year, but FIFA 23 is considerably slower than its precursor. Fleet-footed players can still be devastating, but they work best in short bursts, using their acceleration to gain a yard of space or dashing past a static back line. For the most part, goals are created through sweeping passing moves. Picking out a teammate is more consistent this time around, and there's a responsiveness and satisfying zip to passes that constitutes genuine excitement when you're able to spray the ball around to create openings and eventually finish a move off with the ball nestled in the bottom corner. To counteract this, defenders feel more intelligent in regards to their positioning, and successful tackles frequently end with you actually regaining possession. Jockeying is also an effective avenue for winning the ball back, especially when using a stronger player who's able to utilize their strength to great effect, and slide tackling finally feels viable again.

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Potion Permit Review - An Engaging Elixir

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We all know the story. You're overworked and in desperate need of a change when your grandfather coincidentally passes away and bestows upon you a cherished relic from your childhood: his farm. Of course, this rundown ranch is in desperate need of repairs, but luckily for you, there is a town full of interesting (and eligible) villagers eager to see you succeed.

We've seen some iteration of this story unfold in countless life-sim games, and to be fair, this formula is satisfying. However, what if, instead of inheriting a relative's legacy, you inherited years of resentment and distrust? What if, instead of a newfound farmer, you were a state-certified chemist, sent by the government to help an ailing town that has been burned by your kind before? This is the story Potion Permit sets up, and it's just one of the game's many fantastic qualities.

Yes, your chemist can pet their dog.

Yes, your chemist can pet their dog.

The latest game from Indonesian studio MassHive Media, Potion Permit is a life sim with RPG elements that tasks you with healing a community from both its ailments and its past trauma. You play a chemist sent from the capital to the village of Moonbury at the request of its mayor. You come to discover the reason the mayor sent for you is because his daughter is incredibly ill--so much so that not even the local doctor's methods are working on her. However, while the mayor and his wife are relieved upon your arrival to the sleepy, seaside town, they are among the only villagers who feel that way.

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Desta: The Memories Between Review – Dodging Confrontation

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In Desta: The Memories Between, you play as Desta, who takes on the unenviable, but relatable task of overthinking future conversations that you don't want to have. This anxiety manifests itself as a tactical dodgeball game in your dreams where you think through the worst possible conversation scenarios with old friends and family while visiting home for the first time in years. To turn that familiar human experience into a grid-based dodgeball game sounds strange on paper, but in practice, it works and delivers alongside it a solid tactics game that uses the mobile platform well.

Interpreting this rehearsal of future conversations as tactical dream dodgeball works well because it feels about as normal as the average anxiety dream. It only really makes sense while it's happening and only falls apart when you try and explain it later. In this way, Desta nails the feeling of a dream, which is difficult to do in any entertainment medium.

As a video game, it also works well as a fun tactics game. Every person in your life that you're dreading a confrontation with appears to you in your dreams (alongside some nobodies to serve as cannon fodder) on a layout of squares with randomized barriers. Old friends introduce themselves by berating you for the thing you're anxious about, manifesting your worst-case scenario. You take turns moving positions, picking up dodgeballs, and tossing the ball at them to inflict damage and whittle down their health while making sure you're in a position to not receive the same punishment. The core idea is familiar to anyone who has played a comparable strategy game, but the dodgeball adds an element of action and finesse that works well on a touchscreen.

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Grounded Review - Mountains Out Of Molehills

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The survival-crafting genre is famous for a few things: steep learning curves, a bit of jank in its systems, and a sense of seriousness that, to be fair, is to be expected in an experience that starts you off hungry, thirsty, cold, and defenseless. Obsidian's Grounded, launching into its 1.0 state after two years in Xbox Game Preview, delightfully rejects these tropes, by and large. Instead, it takes the best bits of these games, polishes them, and offers a childlike spin, giving it all a charming sense of place and a unique point of view.

The premise of the game's setup is simple: You take on the role of one of four kids inexplicably shrunken down to the size of an ant and must fend for yourself (and up to three co-op partners) in The Backyard, a typical residential space that would be less than notable if not for your sudden change in stature.

In The Backyard, dinner is a tadpole cooked over campfire, or perhaps some gooey "gnatchos," and your biggest concerns are no longer homework and bedtimes, but wolf spiders and bees. It's the sort of thought experiment no one leaves childhood without having dwelled on--what if I was really small?--and as such, the game filters every weapon, potion, safe haven, and more through the eyes of its kids.

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Hyper Demon Review - Slayer

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Doom might be the most renowned shooter that launched in 2016, but the year also played host to another exceptional one: Devil Daggers. With a focus on the most basic attributes of a shooter, Devil Daggers shone with its extreme difficulty and exceptionally high skill ceiling, inviting run after run for hours on end. In many ways, Hyper Demon, the next game from developer Sorath, is the logical next step of that formula. It's every bit as grueling and engrossing, with even more mechanics to wrap your head around during its intense but short runs. It's also far more approachable than Devil Daggers ever was, making its compelling action more inviting.

While Devil Daggers was focused solely on survival, Hyper Demon is all about aggression. Each round starts with a timer at 10 seconds, which immediately begins to tick down. Each enemy kill increases the timer by three seconds, encouraging you to string together kills in an elegant way to keep the action flowing. The game doesn't end when the timer reaches zero; instead, your score is determined by the amount of time on the clock when you die (or manage to reach the game's ending). Passive play, though technically a lot safer, won't improve your standings on the leaderboard, so much so that some of your shorter, more unhinged runs might yield better scores than ones that lasted twice as long.

An expanded repertoire of mechanics, when compared to Devil Daggers, helps increase the pace of the action to match the new objective, too. Each round still plays out across limited floor space that you can easily fall off of, but you're able to move around it much faster thanks to air dashes and chained bunny hops, the latter of which can be done indefinitely if timed right. Being able to get close to enemies to blow them away is half of the challenge, while the other is determining how best to take them out quickly. Like Devil Daggers, you can hold down the shoot button for a steady barrage of bullets or tap it for a deadlier, close-range shotgun blast. These are enhanced with a laser attack that you can fire off if you stop shooting long enough to manually absorb crystals that enemies drop on death, offering a precise, long-range option for your trouble.

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