Lego Bricktales Review: Build Brick Better

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Lego games are not usually centered around their actual construction toy namesake. A massive library of Traveller's Tales games have been built on crossovers with many licensed franchises, turning properties like Lord of the Rings and Marvel superheroes into slapstick action-platformers, and Lego A Builder's Journey used the brick-building toys to tell a heartfelt story. Lego games don't often capture the feeling of actually playing with Lego bricks, but Lego Bricktales actually does with incredible accuracy.

Bricktales is all about building, transporting you to five Lego-themed worlds and presenting you with a series of physics-based building puzzles. The physics system underlying the whole thing is impressive, as the Lego bricks actually perform the way any experienced brick-builder would expect. Whenever you finish a project that requires weight-bearing, you'll need to test it with a falling object or a little robot crossing your construction to make sure it holds up. If you didn't reinforce it with support struts, the pieces will just fall apart. Even elements like a step being one spacer too high could create enough fall momentum to break the structure.

In that way, Lego Bricktales functions like a STEM toy, teaching some basic engineering principles in a fun and engaging way, just like actual Lego bricks. Putting it into a virtual space like this means you get to stress test the results of your hard work in a way that feels personal and tactile. You can sense the physicality of the interlocking brick system in a way that other games haven't quite captured. It's very satisfying to walk up a set of stairs that you designed yourself, recognizing your own patterns and even your mistakes. And once you've completed the building challenge, you unlock a free play mode that lets you use additional decorative elements to make the structures look great. As you progress through a biome, you'll be surrounded by your own works of brick-built functional art, using them to traverse the environments.

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Valkyrie Elysium Review - Putting the "Mid" In Midgard

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Names hold a lot of power, particularly in the world of entertainment media. When the name of a beloved franchise is attached to something, it brings a lot of things with it: nostalgia, excitement, and perhaps most importantly, expectations. Valkyrie Elysium is no different: It bears the name and lineage of an RPG series known for daring, experimental gameplay and storytelling that's fervently beloved by a loyal group of fans. Unfortunately, this middling action-RPG that the Valkyrie titling is attached to bears little resemblance to the bold, beloved games that preceded it.

The story of Valkyrie Elysium, set up during a brief cinematic at the beginning, takes place smack-dab in the middle of Ragnarok, the end of the world foretold in Norse mythology. Odin, the All-Father and highest of the gods, has been mortally wounded in a battle with Fenrir and requires the strength of souls to restore his power so that he can revive the dying world. To accomplish this, he summons forth a Valkyrie, the legendary vessel of the gods who leads chosen souls to glory in Valhalla. Valkyrie is tasked with purifying wicked souls, finding the worthy to bring to Odin, and recovering sacred treasures. But, as you might expect, all is not entirely what it seems, and Valkyrie faces a conflict between her duty as a servant of Odin and her increasingly conflicted emotions.

If you've played the original Valkyrie Profile, you'll recognize many very similar story beats here--but without the emotional weight or interesting character drama. The transformation of Valkyrie from devoted, single-minded soldier to conflicted heroine doesn't feel genuine: We're simply told that she's becoming more empathetic to humans with little evidence to back it up. The Einherjar--fallen warriors who Valkyrie recruits to aid her in battle--have some interesting backstories, albeit told in a haphazard, disjointed means that's supposed to inspire curiosity and mystique but only leaves you confused until you read their profiles and play some side quests.

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Overwatch 2 Review In Progress - Same As It Ever Was

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There are few moments of calm in Overwatch 2. The action is closer, louder, and faster, and the voice lines are quippier and happen more often. However, in that brief period between selecting your hero and the barriers opening, unleashing you and your teammates out onto the battlefield, there is a brief window of peace--a split-second for meditation.

It was during these moments, as I watched my beloved Hana Song (aka D.Va) shift her weight from one side of her mecha to the other before offering a sweet "annyeong" to a teammate, I forgot I was playing Overwatch 2--I forgot it was no longer 2016. In both my life and Overwatch, a lot has changed, but in these little moments it all felt as if nothing had, and it all felt a bit surreal.

With 700 hours invested into the first Overwatch, what I longed for from Overwatch 2 was a lot of meaningful changes that pushed the series forward while also remaining faithful to the identity it first forged--the identity which made me, someone not typically interested in games driven solely by their multiplayer elements, such a big fan of the first Overwatch. And in some ways, Overwatch 2 delivers this, offering up new characters that feel at home among the rest of the seasoned roster, making the jump to 5v5, which is brilliant, and adding an enthralling Push mode. Even better, the game does all this while retaining the same compelling back-and-forth flow of battle and core gameplay that fans love. However, these are tweaks and additions in a game that, otherwise, feels very familiar, and that sameness can oftentimes make this new Overwatch feel more like an update than the something brand-new in the way that the "2" suggests. Beyond that, however, Overwatch 2 also often feels detached from the principles and charm of the original.

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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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