Video Game Review: Conan: Exiles – Isle of Siptah (PlayStation 4)

Conan: Exiles – Isle of Siptah is probably the DLC that I have anticipated more than any other in the history of my gaming life.

That being said, this came with extreme disappointment as the game on PlayStation 4 appears to be broken.

Sure, the game starts and you can run around doing your thing in this neat, deadly world. However, graphics keep switching back and forth from high res to low res and then NPCs and enemies either have a delay in loading or don’t load at all.

Furthermore, the game gets really f’n choppy to the point of absolute madness.

Every time I try to conquer a dungeon, before I get to the end, enemies just stop spawning and I get stuck, unable to progress and beat the dungeon.

I attempted to fix these issues, as I thought that maybe my files were f’d up due to building so much shit in the regular game. So I deleted all of my save files and even deleted the game files and DLC files. I then redownloaded and reinstalled everything and the problems were still there.

So I stopped playing this after a few days and didn’t even start on a new fortress build because what’s the point?

If they fix these issues, I’ll gladly give this a go again and update this review.

All that being said, the new map looks amazing. I just wish I could play the damn game without massive issues.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: other open world survival RPG-type games.

Video Game Review: Dark Souls – Remastered (PlayStation 4)

It took me a long time to beat this game and even after such a long journey, I didn’t want it to end.

Dark Souls is an incredible body of work from the general game design, the boss fights, the gameplay, the creativity that went into it and because of just how f’n challenging it is.

While some want to claim this is the hardest game ever made, it isn’t. There are games I haven’t beaten and I beat this one fairly easily and decisively, even if some bosses gave me real trouble. I’m looking at you Ornstein and Smough, as well as the black dragon, Kalameet.

I love the whole feel and tone of this game and even though it’s pretty well populated with monsters to fight and NPCs to interact with, it still churned up feelings of isolation and loneliness in a similar fashion to the masterpiece, The Shadow of the Colossus.

This game is dark, feels cold and you almost feel as if the kingdom you’re in is some form of Hell or Purgatory.

The two things that make this so great are the design of the large, interconnected world, as well as how different most of the boss fights are.

In regards to the world you play in, there are a dozen or more unique areas but most of them are connected directly to the other areas through multiple paths and shortcuts. This game has, hands down, one of the best and most well thought out worlds ever designed for a video game.

With that, you don’t have to conquer each area in any specific order. While there are certain tasks you have to complete to access some places, every playthrough of this game can be vastly different. Because of that, I’ve been playing through the “second quest” and who knows, I may playthrough this several more times. Granted, I need to move on to the second and third games in the series, as they’re already sitting on my shelf.

Looking at the boss fights, many are really damn challenging. There are a handful of bosses that took me a half dozen times (or more) to defeat them. Sometimes, I had to leave, build up my stats or hunt for better weapons and armor.

One thing this game did, is it gave you a real sense of accomplishment whenever you were finally able to topple a really hard boss. Other games certainly give you a sense of accomplishment but this game does it on a different level and much more frequently. Because of that, it makes you more invested in it.

This is a game that forces you to “get good”. You may find portions of it to be a breeze but if you don’t spend enough time building up your stats and holding on to your souls, you’re going to hit walls that force you to have to work hard to climb over them.

In the end, this is as good as people led me to believe. It lives up to the hype and even exceeds it. Frankly, it is one of the best video game experiences I have ever had.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the other Dark Souls games, as well as other games by Hidetaka Miyazaki like Demon’s Souls and Bloodborne.

Video Game Review: The Lone Ranger (NES)

I have never played The Lone Ranger for the original Nintendo but I went into this knowing nothing about the game and without having any expectations.

What I was really surprised to discover is that this is one of the greatest 8-bit action RPGs of all-time!

Seriously, no one talks about this game, I’ve never heard anything about it and because of that, I have to consider it a real hidden gem among the 600+ titles that were released for the system.

The thing that makes this game so great is that it employs multiple gameplay styles from bird’s eye view world traveling to side scrolling, vertical scrolling and first person shooter action levels. You fight in towns, on moving trains, in caves, in forts, in hotels, on mountains, in the desert and even get to fight on horseback in two different ways.

Man, this game is just cool as hell and a shitload of fun! It’s really damn difficult but it isn’t unbeatable. I did beat the game, even though it took some time, and it gave me a real sense of accomplishment unlike many games from the era that have really underwhelming endings. This game’s ending was pretty superb for the time.

There isn’t a dull moment or a boring mission. The game designers did a fantastic job at keeping every area of the game fresh and unique, always adding new twists and ways to play the game.

For the 8-bit era, this is close to a masterpiece. The only things working against it are a lack of maps in the first-person stages and frustrating controls that switch your weapon when you jump.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other action RPGs and western games for the NES.

Video Game Review: Conan: Exiles (PlayStation 4)

For my last video game review of the decade, I wanted to talk about something truly epic.

I bought this game without knowing much about it simply because it was a Conan the Barbarian game. I wanted to play a modern game set in that world, whether or not you could play as Conan or not.

Being that I never play multiplayer stuff online, this game, at first, felt like a waste of time. However, I found a lot to do in single player mode that made the game worth it to me and really, this game could be great or terrible depending upon what you want to get out of it.

Don’t go into this expecting a massive open world RPG with dozens upon dozens of quests like Skyrim. This is more of a survival game and it’s about living and prospering in Conan’s world more so than it is about simple adventure. But that’s not to say that adventure doesn’t exist, it does. But I’ll explain further as I work my way through this review.

The game starts with Conan sparing your life, as he unties you from a cross in the desert. From that point on, you have to figure out how to get food, water, how to make your own clothes and learn how to construct a shelter to protect you from the harsh elements of the desert wasteland.

As the game moves on, you gain experience, you get better at surviving and you discover new biomes (or environments) to explore and survive in.

Apart from survival, this is mainly a game about exploration. So if you dig survival stuff and exploring massive video game worlds, you should probably enjoy this game. It took time for me to adjust to the fact that there doesn’t seem to be clearly defined objectives or what I thought was a point to the game but when it clicks, it becomes fairly addictive.

Now getting back to what initially may feel like a lack of adventure, the game does provide it in a way.

First, exploration is an adventure and this game throws so many beasts, supernatural threats and savage men at you that traveling around is a challenge in and of itself. But man, walking from one end of the map to another is tough but it’s damn fun, as the world has a lot of different and unique challenges from biome to biome.

Also, the game may not have quests but it has great dungeons and the game’s developers are always crafting and making new ones, as the game has pretty frequent updates and tweaks, even 18 months after its release.

The game may lack a clear story or objective but each dungeon sets you on a path that pretty much serves as a one-off quest. And each dungeon feels unique and I’ve yet to play through one that wasn’t a fun experience.

On top of that, there are a ton of subterranean caves to explore, which aren’t specifically dungeons but they have their own challenges and treasures to discover.

There are also mini bosses and big bosses throughout the game. Almost every animal has a giant counterpart that is tough as nails to beat but rewarding when you do, as most have keys that open very helpful treasures.

I’ve been playing the game for a few months now and I mostly build cool cities with pyramids, castles and labyrinths but I really like going off into the wild and discovering new places. After all this time and exploring every biome, I still come across new caves and interesting locations every time I wander out beyond the safety of my multiple shelters.

Again, many people might not like this as it isn’t what most people would initially hope for in a gigantic RPG style sword and sorcery game but if you stick with it and give it a real shot, it will probably grow on you.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other open world survival RPG-type games.

 

Video Game Review: Willow (NES)

Strangely, I never rented or even borrowed this game as a kid. I knew it existed but even though I loved the film, I guess the game didn’t appeal to my pre-middle school brain.

Having played it now, this is one of the best action RPGs on the original Nintendo. The gameplay style reminds me a lot of the stupendous Crystalis. It also has similarities to the original Zelda.

You play as Willow and work your way through the same general plot of the film, except this mostly plays like all the side quests that you maybe didn’t see on the big screen in the film itself.

This alters the movie’s plot to fit the game better but it expands on a lot of things and gives more context. Granted, none of this context is really canon within the Willow story but it works and it makes the game pretty interesting.

In fact, had they incorporated some of the ideas from the game into the film, they maybe could’ve expanded Willow into an epic fantasy trilogy, as opposed to just a one-off film that’s still never gotten a cinematic followup.

The gameplay is smooth, the graphics are damn good and I like the music and sound effects.

Willow was a much better experience than I had anticipated and if you dig the movie or just dig action RPGs, this is definitely worth your time.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other action RPGs from the original Nintendo, primarily Crystalis.

Video Game Review: Faxanadu (NES)

This had the makings of something that could have been a really stellar game.

I liked the graphics, the world was pretty cool and the level design was mostly good.

However, the gameplay mechanics are shit. And on top of that, this is overly difficult due to the placement of enemies and for having enemies that seem way too overpowered than they need to be almost from the get go.

You get a bit of gold early on and can use that to buy weapons, armor, shields, etc. but none of the stuff you get in the beginning is very helpful.

Also, you can’t duck and slash at bad guys, so small enemies you pretty much have to jump over. The problem with this is that the jumping mechanic is terrible. It’s similar to the jumping in the first Castlevania, a game that no matter how close to a masterpiece it is, the shitty jumping was always an insanely frustrating thing.

Additionally, jumping over enemies is kind of a bitch when you can’t jump far and there is almost always another enemy to fight right behind them. It’s damn near impossible to play this game without taking immense damage because of how awful enemy placement is.

And on top of that, they often times place small enemies on very small platforms, so there is nowhere to jump without getting knocked off. Plus, when the jumping ability is garbage, it only compounds that frustration.

I wish that this game was more fun, quite a bit easier, at least early on, and that it wasn’t designed to just drive the player insane. I would’ve been pissed if I spent full price on this game back when it was new.

And while it does have strong positives, you’re ready to throw your controller through the window before you can really relish in any of that.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: other action RPGs for the original Nintendo.

Video Game Review: Crystalis (NES)

If I’m being honest, I didn’t really get into this game as a kid. I had a neighbor that played the shit out of it and I’d watch him but I didn’t know the story or what the objective was.

In the years since this has come out, I’ve heard it described as one of the top action RPGs for the original Nintendo. I’ve heard it compared to both of the original NES Zelda games. So being that those two games were two of my favorites of all-time, I figured that a playthrough of Crystalis was decades overdue.

Plus, I was in the right headspace for this now, as I just played all four Dragon Warrior games and the first Final Fantasy.

So now that I’ve played and conquered this game, I have to say that it is one of the best NES games ever made and it’s the best action RPG after the two Zelda games.

It was a hell of a lot of fun and even though you’ve got to grind for some experience points, here and there, you do level up fast enough that it’s not a total chore.

I love the level design and frankly, the geographical layout of the whole game.

In fact, everything is near perfect other than two gripes I have.

The first is the multiple swords. It’s cool that the game plays off of the four elements but different enemies have different weaknesses and it’s tedious to go into the menus to switch swords and have to sometimes go through all four of them to figure out which ones work on which monsters. Dungeons where different monsters have different weaknesses is pretty tiresome.

The second is that the game won’t even let you damage monsters unless you are at the level to do so. Usually, bosses are at a level higher than the monsters in their own dungeon. So being at a certain level and working your way through a dungeon just to find out that you aren’t leveled high enough to even damage the boss is pretty infuriating. Because then you have to leave the dungeon, go somewhere and grind up to the next level and then go back and work your way through it a second time. This happened to me in just about every dungeon until I just decided to spend a couple hours completely maxing out my character.

Still, despite those hangups, this is a damn solid game and one of the best of its time.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.