The First Descendant Review - Grind Me Down

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The First Descendant is a bad video game that's occasionally fun. These fleeting moments of joy speak to the potential of the game's bedrock, where snappy combat ekes out glimpses of delight amidst a torrent of disappointment and frustration. Everything surrounding the game's fast-paced shooting is painfully dull, tedious, and egregiously predatory. The First Descendant is a free-to-play, third-person looter shooter that feels like it was designed to please shareholders rather than the people playing it. It's derivative and soulless, bereft of new ideas outside of the myriad ways it attempts to extract money from its player base. It's a foul example of a game designed around monetization, even in a market saturated with freemium looter shooters.

It doesn't start on good footing, either. The First Descendant's story is convoluted and sterile, but the basic premise places you as one of the titular Descendants--a group of humans with unique abilities passed down to them from their fallen ancestors. You're tasked with fighting for the survival of humanity against an invading alien threat known as the Vulgus, who traveled to the colonized planet of Ingris in search of an infinite energy source.

These interdimensional invaders come in all shapes and sizes, with very little in common regarding their visual design. Some look like gray-skinned humans; others are grotesque creatures with large glowing claws. There are sleek and smooth-edged robots, but also clunky ones, too. Some are made to resemble humanoid lizards, while others are floating orbs that shoot lightning. There's no cohesion or unifying theme to the Vulgus. Even their names range from Greg to something more alien, like Alzaroke.

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Kunitsu-Gami: Path Of The Goddess Review - Danse Macabre

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At first glance, Kunitsu-Gami: Path Of The Goddess feels like the spinning plates metaphor made manifest. Each stage requires you to purge supernatural rot, rescue villagers, build traps, and fight off waves of hideous demons, all with the goal of aiding a divine maiden in her quest to rid Mt. Kafuku of a plague. The gameplay mechanics required to achieve all of those tasks, however, bundle together to create one of the more distinct experiences in video games this year.

On a moment-to-moment basis, Kunitsu-Gami tests your fighting skills, as well as your wits and your ability to think on your feet, lest the maiden in your care succumb to the rot. There are elements where the fun of its sword-swinging, demon-slaying action is supplanted by menial tasks, but those hiccups aren't enough to derail the whole experience. Kunitsu-Gami is a refreshing new addition to Capcom's stable of IP and a solid execution of an engaging gameplay loop.

This new adventure puts you in control of Soh, a samurai warrior who is sworn to protect Yoshiro, the aforementioned divine maiden. Their home, Mt. Kafuku, has been invaded by the Seethe, a demonic force of otherworldly entities who have spread a hideous plague of "defilement" throughout the land. Soh must lead Yoshiro through each town and village on the mountain, protecting her at all costs as she purges the defilement once and for all.

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Bō: Path of the Teal Lotus Review - A Hollow Night

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As more metroidvania games come out, we're seeing fewer of them resemble the originators of the subgenre--Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night--and more that clearly take inspiration from those that came after. Bō: Path of the Teal Lotus is one such example, with tons of clear parallels to Hollow Knight in terms of both gameplay and narrative. In a few ways, this works extremely well for Path of the Teal Lotus--if you're going to take inspiration from a game, do it using one where there's a lot of good stuff to build on. However, Path of the Teal Lotus pales in comparison to its inspirations by making mechanics and features that were already problems in Hollow Knight, like an unclear map and frustrating platforming gauntlets, worse. It makes for an altogether decent-enough game if based solely on its own merits, but one that doesn't stand out at all when held up against its juggernaut contemporaries.

In Path of the Teal Lotus, you play as the titular Bō, a celestial blossom charged with fulfilling an ancient prophecy and defeating a terrifyingly large monstrosity after falling from the heavens. Armed with a bō staff, Bō must traverse and fight their way through picturesque locales, meeting characters and fighting monsters inspired by Japanese folklore. It's an incredible narrative tee-up, but one that comes after hours of coy character dialogue and not much in the way of direction beyond "go get this ability to get to the next area." Path of the Teal Lotus' story takes a long time to get going, leaving the first half of the game feeling directionless. And once a story does start falling into place, the game is already heading toward its conclusion, culminating in an overall narrative tempo that initially feels far too slow before becoming rushed and difficult to follow.

This is a gorgeous game, especially the urban hub area.
This is a gorgeous game, especially the urban hub area.

And I wanted to get lost in this game's world. Path of the Teal Lotus is a beautiful game, featuring a colorful, hand-drawn 2.5D style that incorporates vibrant greens, electric blues, somber purples, and shining reds. Character and enemy designs are varied and pop against the backdrop, with details helping to highlight NPCs you want to talk to and enemy weak points you want to bash. The world relies on the tried-and-true method of associating a specific color with each location and then relying on said color to depict the same location on the map, reinforcing each distinct locale and the unique challenges you'll encounter there, whether it's the icy blue of a snow-covered mountaintop or soft pink of a sakura-filled forest.

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Demon Slayer: Sweep The Board Review - Sleep Once Bored

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Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba is a wildly popular anime and manga series that stars a captivating cast of characters all seeking to protect innocents from insidious threats. My wife and I are huge fans of the show to the point that we’ve obtained dozens of Banpresto, Figurizm, and Masterlise figures for our humble collection. It’s also why I was intrigued by Demon Slayer: Sweep the Board!, a virtual board game adaptation of the series from CyberConnect 2 and Sega.

Following its release on Nintendo Switch this past April, Demon Slayer: Sweep the Board has been released on additional platforms. Unfortunately, however, it seems my wait for Sweep the Board to come to PC was not worth it. After nearly 10 hours of playing, I still have a hard time discerning just who exactly this game was made for. From clunky controls to boring minigames, Sweep the Board feels like a party game that lacks any sense of "party."

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Demon Slayer: Sweep the Board adapts several arcs of the manga and anime into Mario Party-esque layouts. From Asakusa and Mount Fujikasane in Board 1 to the Swordsmith Village in Board 5, each map is chock-full of references and nods to moments from the show, which was a treat for me as a fan. For instance, there are multiple paths in Mt. Natagumo that take you to Tsuzumi Mansion, which has a mysterious drum that causes characters inside the building to move to random locations. The Swordsmith Village, meanwhile, has hot springs, mechanical training dolls, and Haganezuka chasing you around. Those familiar with the source material will no doubt get a kick out of the references, albeit a brief one.

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Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail Review - A New World

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Coming off the heels of the decade-long Hydaelyn and Zodiark saga, Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail takes you to completely new territory, quite literally. For once, you--the Warrior of Light--are offered the chance for some peace and quiet alongside your friends, with no calamitous threat looming over your shoulder. There are no dragons to slay, gods to fell, or villains to vanquish on the agenda. Hell, we traveled to the literal edge of the universe, I think it's fair to say we deserve this break.

This latest adventure is the beginning of something new for the MMO and aims to try something a little different with a number of unpredictable outcomes. You'd be setting yourself up for disappointment if you're expecting this expansion to offer the non-stop excitement and narrative revelations or Shadowbringers or Endwalker, but Dawntrail is still a great setup for a lower-stakes adventure, and one that ultimately makes Dawntrail's twist that much more compelling.

Major spoilers ahead for Dawntrail's story

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