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Tormentum: Dark Sorrow – The Verdict

Tormentum: Dark Sorrow – The Verdict

There’s no denying it, the stand out attribute of Tormentum: Dark Sorrow is the brilliantly twisted artwork that fills this dark fantasy world with it’s unusual beings, scarred landscapes and hauntingly attractive design. In fact if it wasn’t for the incredible amounts of artwork, Tormentum would lose a lot of its character, however disturbing that character really is! At first glance Tormentum’s shadowy figure doesn’t seem like the kind that would be well suited to the point and click/adventure genre. But the game mechanics are implemented well and I never found myself scratching my head at an impossible combination of items or an unworkable puzzle as I have done with so many others. In fact I found Tormentum‘s puzzles to be a little on the easy side and I was able to enjoyably fly through the game in little over three hours.

Another thing I wasn’t entirely sure about to begin with was the silent protagonist and the games way of not really telling you much about him and how he came to be. Developers OhNoo studio explain this by means of the good old cliché of memory loss and I feel that there is a missed opportunity here to add lore and detail to the wonderfully designed world. I should point out that by the end of the game this sticking point had more than ironed itself out however and I was enjoying the freedom of imagination surrounding his past life. In fact much of what the character becomes is made through moral choices you encounter on your travels. There are a number of these choices throughout the game that directly effect the story and how you proceed in minor ways. There are also multiple endings in Tormentum that depend on your decision making and mean another playthough of the game is entirely viable if you want to discover all the outcomes for youself.

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I find it hard to write a full review about a game that only lasts three hours and doesn’t have all that much of a journey in terms of written dialogue and back story. Instead Tormrntum’s strong points come from allowing you to have the imagination of what it would be like in the amazingly drawn world and to create the protagonists characteristics through the choices and decisions you make and it does this very well. It doesn’t focus too much on bogging you down with tough puzzles or forcing you to remember hundreds of plot points, but instead has a brilliant and very polished world filled to the brim with imagination, creativity, strange and interesting characters and a new approach (at least for me) to the point and click genre and that is something that should be applauded. The dialogue that is present in the game is not voiced but is well written and again adds to the feeling of the world and its characters and having played through the game twice already this is a world I would quite happily visit again in the future.

The Verdict – Headshot

Platforms Available – PC
Platform Reviewed – PC

Please see this post for more on our scoring policy. Steam review code supplied by PR.

Correcting my Game of the Year

Correcting my Game of the Year

When we wrote our Games of the Year pieces back last year, I wrote openly and honestly about the games that I had loved from last year. However, as is to be expected, I didn’t play every game, or even every AAA title, that was released last year. Since then though, I’ve had the chance to revisit a title which would have appeared at the top of my list – Dragon Age: Inquisition.

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Valkyria Chronicles – The Verdict

Valkyria Chronicles – The Verdict

I’ve been playing Valkyria: Chronicles to give you our verdict on the recent PC release. So that’s what I did. So what do we have? Well it’s (really) bad port and has an anime style that while I have no issue with, doesn’t exactly get me excited either. Oh and OH SO MUCH EXPOSITION. Seriously, there’s a lot of talk about flowers. And goat poo. I’m not even making that up. Yet… I’ve grown, step by inexorable step, to love this game.

Jump to the cut for the inevitably hilarious shenanigans that follow…

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Europa Universalis IV: Art of War – The Verdict

Europa Universalis IV: Art of War – The Verdict

It took me a while to get into Europa Universalis IV when I played it last October, it was only once I turned to online play that things fell into place and I understood what the game was all about. With the Art of War DLC pack, I knew straight away what I wanted to do – dive into the Thirty Years War as one of the German states and cause some chaos.

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Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms – The Verdict

Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms – The Verdict

I hack and slash but the enemies keep at me thick and fast, surrounding me from every angle. Slowly they chip away at my health, forcing me to drain my soul reserves in order to replenish my health. I pull back to a previous area hoping to pick off a few grunts before the full force hits me again. Alas it’s no use, there are just too many. Fortunately I have one last trick up my sleeve. Not one that many mortals would openly admit to, but then again I am not just any mortal. I have already been resurrected once today and don’t plan on giving cause for a second time. My secret… well, you see I have a demon in my soul and can transfer to its shadowy world in a mere second.

And just like that… I vanished.

The cross dimensional mechanic is easily the best thing about Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms, meaning you can start and finish quests, find secrets, solve puzzles and encounter entirely different enemies in both the realm of the living and the shadowy realm of the dead. In fact one of the best moments of the game came when I discovered some poor betrayed soul haunting the afterlife, only to take pity on the story they told me and exact revenge on their betrayer back in the mortal world. It’s this added sense of depth that makes the questing in exploration in Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms all that more enjoyable, especially when travelling through previously visited areas. Another high point is the all too rare boss battles, which provide a real challenge even in lower difficulties. These encounters are filled with unique abilities and situations that make them stand out amongst the hundreds of normal enemies you will encounter over the course of this game. They require tactics, patience and often multiple attempts, which is exactly what I would expect from an ARPG that knows what it’s doing.

If Shadows: HK was able to keep up this level of performance across the entire game, then it really would be something special. Unfortunately just like a freshly unearthed gem you can see that it has value, that there is something special there, but it’s rough around the edges and needs some work to mould it into perfection. Shadows: HK has plenty of plus points but lacks the polish and overall direction of an ARPG that has larger funding behind it.

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One of the main problems I have with the game is the way the story is delivered. There is a very short prologue that does little to set the story for you, the cutscenes are poorly processed and it’s not until you are a few hours into the game that the story really begins to open up thanks to the great voice acting and pick up and read lore books that you find dotted about the levels. Combat is also very slow to begin and again it’s not until a few hours into the game, once you have a full party of characters and you’ve had some time to level up abilities that the combat becomes more exciting. Even then it is still slow when compared to other ARPG’s.

Another major bugbear, although not necessarily a problem depending on what kind of a game you are expecting, is the looting and crafting systems. Gear drops are not frequent and I rarely found myself using the crafting systems to build myself armour or weapons. Instead most of my character progression was achieved through leveling up abilities and stats and by picking up the odd gear drop. If you are looking for an instantly fast paced ARPG focused on gear drops then you might want to look elsewhere.

Of course there are many good points to Shadows: HK and if you are willing to put in a couple of hours to get past the initial slow start, the games combat and story really begin to open up and become more enjoyable. Another positive to note is that the game is really easy to get to grips with in terms of understanding the UI, maps, combat mechanics, character movement and travelling through the levels. Questing is a particular plus point for me as I found the cross-realm mechanic really added a sense of depth to what would otherwise be quite linear quests. There are occasionally also moral choices to be made, that whilst not ultimately storyline changing, do directly affect the game world.

At first I wasn’t sure about Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms slower pace but found myself sinking hours into unlocking new characters and completing challenging quests just so that I could see every area of the well designed and smart looking levels. Upon completion it now ranks among the top games in my steam list for play time and that’s only with part one of the game. Book two is planned for release in 2015.

The Verdict – On target

Platforms Available – PC
Platform Reviewed – PC

Please see this post for more on our scoring policy. Steam review code supplied by PR.

Football Manager 2015 – The Verdict

Football Manager 2015 – The Verdict

I’ve been a long standing fan of the Football Manager series, stretching back to my debut with the games in their original Championship Manager incarnation. Each year, there is something of a debate about whether buying into the yearly releases is worthwhile. Most of the time, the answer is an easy “Yes”, but with Football Manager 2015, I find myself unsure of whether this edition is a must buy.

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Iron Fisticle – The Verdict

Iron Fisticle – The Verdict

In the run up to EGX at the end of September, I received several press releases pertaining to a game known as Iron Fisticle. I didn’t even open the messages for some reason, but the name stuck in the back of my mind. Roll on to EGX and on my first night, I attended an indie game show and tell evening in the local O’Neill’s. Lo, what did I find? The friendly chaps from Curve Digital showing off the aforementioned title, Iron Fisticle. I immediately raced over and gave it a blast while later in the evening, after bumping into ex-Reticule writer Ben Borthwick, we gave it a blast in co-op. Since returning from London, I’ve been playing this delightful twin-stick shooter when opportunity arises.

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Train Simulator 2015 – The Verdict

Train Simulator 2015 – The Verdict

It was around this time last year that I took my first steps into the Train Simulator franchise with this review. At the end of the Verdict, I said that I had to differentiate it in my mind from most games as it is a pure blood simulator without many of the ‘gamey’ elements that you find in something like European Truck Simulator or Farming Simulator. A year has passed since then, the game has been updated, and I am taking the opportunity to deliver a Verdict on the new version.

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