Maize is an example of the age-old debate in gaming around gameplay versus story. In this case, it is so hard to discount the gameplay aspect. The great implementation of the plot and the unique story, on top of the brilliant portrayal of the cast and the general charming vibe, is sure to please young and old. What lets it down is that all this is balanced against a rather high cost considering the very modest length of the adventure, which doesn't offer any real replayability. Additionally, the lack of challenge means things feel extremely linear and the length is even further eroded. Maize is a definite pick up… when it is on sale, that is.
Superhot on its own was already a rich, memorable title that presented something different to the genre. This VR expansion takes that up a notch or ten. It really is like stepping inside an action movie. The level of immersion is second to none, but more important is the level of fun, which throws as many dangerous scenarios and enemies as it can and asks, "How will you stop us?" It is hard not to rise to the challenge—and don't be surprised if a lot of the office furniture is crashing down as those bullets are dodged and intercepted. This is a virtual power fantasy in all the best ways.
The real trick of making a game work in this style is to ground it in some sense of normality. Where the Musou series excels, and indeed how it has survived for such a long time, is that for all the Japanese humour and charm, the core story is a simple one of warring kingdoms fighting battles. It is awesome when a story doesn't hold back on its vision and complexity and does not abandon its world. However, Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star gets lost in this vision at the expense of its Western audience. With that said, where it does succeed is in making a fun, if forgettable, action title that has plenty of content to work through, even if it does tend to get a little predictable and stale after the first few hours. There is definitely something to work on here for future titles, though, and it is great to see the Warriors style reimagined by another developer.
Virtual Rides 3 doesn't do anything majorly wrong, and it strikes the right tone in creating a realistic portrayal of a theme park or fairground. The issue is that sometimes a mere tone isn't enough and there has to be another few layers on top. The VR experience is on point generally, but the optimisation could use work, and there are a good few rough edges visually that could do with extra care. Additionally, there is not a great deal of content, with only the barebones existing; admittedly, though, genre enthusiasts possibly are not too concerned and appreciate the detail in ride operation. Ultimately, this is a perfectly reasonable budget title at a modest price, but doesn't reach beyond that.
Has-Been Heroes delivers an excellent challenge for the player and provides the perfect blend of tension and enjoyment. The combat mechanic definitely manages to be both welcoming for newer players, while still providing scope for tactical and strategic decisions through the use of spells, combined with good lane placement. There is not a lot of focus given to creating an epic memorable quest, and sometimes luck plays too big a part in victory - but this is a minor quibble when the main entertainment comes from the gameplay, which is challenging, but rewarding, both in personal rewards and tangible unlockable rewards. For a fairly modest price there is an abundance of content on offer, and with the potential for portable play it is unsurprising a Nintendo Switch port was developed alongside the Steam release.
Detached is a tricky experience to make an individual conclusion on and the verdict given might not reflect what a lot of people may feel when they experience it themselves. As with so many VR titles, and as referenced above, the physical experience of the title reflects a lot of what shapes the opinion. Some people are better versed to cope with the demands that the movement and physics place on them. It is also fair to give props to Anshar Studios for taking a risk like this and not compromising on their vision. For some, that will give them a lot of goodwill. However, even accepting this debate, it still stands true that the experience of Detached is only ever compelling in a few all-too-fleeting moments, and the full potential is yet to be unlocked.
At its heart, Football Manager 2018 remains a compelling experience, delivering rollercoaster highs of conquering the world while battling the agonising lows of relegation and sackings. The problem is the first signs of weariness are really starting to show themselves in this year's edition. It is like an ageing star in the twilight of their career; more than previously, there is a lack of genuine innovation from a team of developers who are held up to an exceptionally high standard. For sure, there are some welcome additions; the performance of the 3D match engine, alongside the revamps of scouting and medical teams, for instance, show that Sports Interactive does take refinement seriously. However, the continuing focus on the aspects most fans of the series find the most tiresome - the social media and player conversations - portray a worrying trend of the wrong path being pursued. The fundamental strengths of Football Manager remain, yet it seems a better strategy these days is possibly to pick up the title every two seasons for the best 'bang for buck' factor. For the annual buyer, this year's might prove a tougher pill to swallow and could well be deserving of one mark lower.
For the very modest price of this first chapter of the Stories DLC, it is hard to criticise. Starting at $1.99, or the season pass for $4.99, there is plenty of content here to entice fans who may have set This War of Mine down to pick it back up again. Hopefully, the rest of the stories match up to the quality on show here in terms of the narrative of the protagonist, Adam, and his journey to save his daughter and escape the besieged city. The same compelling gameplay, graphics and sound from back in 2014 remain, and placed on top is the forward momentum that a story brings.
For a budget title, Headmaster is definitely worth a buy and is great at demonstrating some of the best aspects of VR. Certainly this is not the most epic of the medium, but what it does provide is an addictive pick-up-and-play style of game that is always welcome on any gaming apparel or add-on like VR. Very solid graphically, as well as being humorous, and underpinned with a realistic physics engine, Headmaster is a good introduction into VR for developer Frame Interactive. Hopefully, it now follows this up with some more great ideas using this as a base.
Sariento VR is one of the most impressive VR titles in many ways. From the technical standpoint, with the graphics and engine stability, to the movement system (which is a pure thrill) right through to the sounds of the weaponry, which really make everything come to life. There are a few titles that mix some of the acrobatic movement and bullet-time mechanics separately but none have combined them so well and in such a complete package. This is one of the first VR titles on the market that could be reasonably described as a true AAA VR experience, with an addictive gameplay loop of missions offering plenty of rewards and a voiced campaign. Best of all, it might be a first class title but developer Mixed Realms has delivered on a budget price of £22.99. For VR owners, this is a must buy.
Quite simply, Rise and Fall is a must-buy expansion for any Civilization VI owner. The fundamental core of the experience has, of course, not been radically changed - however it didn't need to. Rather, what has been added is a refinement that encourages strategic development and thinking and gives a constant treadmill of challenges to overcome in order to create the greatest civilisation. The loyalty mechanic accompanies this all nicely by again increasing the difficulty curve by just the right amount to avoid annoyance. The disappointment about the global emergencies does not detract from the experience enough to consider Rise and Fall anything other than a triumph.
Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition is firstly and primarily a fantastic addition to the Final Fantasy catalogue. It addresses the critical faults of its predecessor and sets the franchise back up on the path to greatness. Memorable characters, exciting combat, and a risk taken with the change to the open world, show Square Enix as developers who have proven their credentials for delivering top-class RPG experiences. It just slightly feels that it was behind the curve here, which may be as a result of the long development time. There is the overriding feeling that the open world lags behind some of the competitors in the field alongside a story that has a number of issues that detract from it. With that said, the PC release has redressed many of the technical issues with that world and has given it a whole new lease of life that brings out the immense beauty of the world.
Far Cry 5, while having some issues, such as the janky AI and a rather far-fetched plot, more than makes up for these things with some compelling and truly innovative approaches from Ubisoft. There is a real sense that it put a lot of love back into a series that over the last spin-off and fully-fledged entry was possibly becoming mundane. The world set in the USA presents a real contrast to the tropical paradise settings of all the previous entries. Additionally, the organic approach to missions and narrative advancement mean that Far Cry 5 avoids the 'cleaning up of the map' feel that some previous games have conveyed. The gunplay is smooth and fantastic and the graphics are stunning. Anyone who hasn't played a Far Cry game before needs to get this and any doubters of Ubisoft's ability to deliver a truly great open-world title need to do likewise.
Skyrim VR is an excellent RPG that obviously directly plants down all of the amazing work developing it. Of course, even in VR there are an abundance of user-created mods to enhance the experience. With that said, judging it purely as a virtual reality title, the limitations of trying to deliver a grand RPG of this size crop up a little more clearly than otherwise would be the case. This feels like a technological leap too far for the current generation of headsets and, despite the world being easy to get lost in, it displays constant reminders of just how far there still is to go. However, this is still one of the most ambitious VR titles on the market and possibly one of the very few AAA experiences so, in that sense, it would be a shame to take away from Bethesda's effort in not just bringing Skyrim to VR but to making a distinct change to the combat engine and allowing people to experience a great story in a whole new way.
In some ways, Siegecraft Commander works well for the VR medium; it introduces an apt and engaging control mechanism with the structure flinging. In addition, the control of the map and units and the touches of love in the UI all are positive things. The disappointing part is that the main gameplay on top of those things is just simply not anywhere near engaging or interesting enough to make for a great experience. Battles, whilst having a touch of strategic thought, more often than not descend into a boring slog of tower-defence mechanics. Similarly, the campaign is not interesting or lengthy enough to pull the rest of the game up to standard. It's not the cheapest VR strategy title on the market, either, and with multiplayer effectively dead, the chances of having a long-term relationship with Siegecraft Commander looks rather unlikely.
Ultimately, Naked Sun is a good first VR effort by a small team. There is definitely a lot of potential here and a base to build on for future titles. Where it slips is simply a lack of content and imagination on the narrative front, with a lot of stereotypes employed within the setting. However, the gameplay fundamentals here are solid, with a fine shooting system and some impressive graphics. A bit more scale in terms of expanding from simply a linear on rails with only 180 degrees of movement stops Naked Sun from really excelling over some of the competition which have done this genre a bit better.
Within the VR community, a mech title is something that is regularly touted as being something that could bring the best out of the platform. On the evidence of Archangel: Hellfire, this is certainly the case. The production values in the single-player campaign do a fine job of rivalling Skydance Interactive's movie arm, and the graphical fidelity and scale is impressive. However, the multiplayer expansion adds a real shot in the arm and provides the potential for a community to spring up and really enjoy this unique experience together.