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Name's Josh. I'm 25, play pretty much any kind of game, and have since I was old enough to hold a controller.
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10:22 PM on 07.16.2014

As per the request of fellow Dtoid community writer Solar Pony Django I have compiled a list of my personal 10 favorite games. Also per SPD's request I have assigned them numbers, but don't put too much stock in the numbers themselves. As this is only a list of 10 I had to leave out a lot of great games. Hope you enjoy reading!

10. Diddy Kong Racing

It's my understanding that, when it comes to kart racing, most people grew up on Mario Kart, and that's fine. I myself spent an awful lot of time on the original Super Mario Kart on SNES. For me though, the true pinnacle of the genre was with Rare's Diddy Kong Racing on the N64. This was a ridiculously fun and hectic party racing game that had fun mechanics, cool characters, and an awesome overworld to ride around in. It also allowed you to choose your own vehicle to race in from plane, kart, and hoverboat, each giving you unique ways through the variety of tracks. I spent A LOT of time on DKR as a kid, both alone and playing it with my Dad, so it has a special place for me.

9. Pokemon Red/Blue

In all honesty I think that the recent Pokemon X/Y releases are probably the better games (despite their unfortunate lack of challenge), but those don't hold the same place in my heart as the original generation of Red and Blue. I got my first gameboy, a chunky and see-through beast of a system, as a hand-me-down from a friend of the family when the slimmer model came out. My parents got me Pokemon Blue to accompany it and it didn't take me long to fall in love. When I was a kid RPG's were my jam and I played them more than any other genre (as you may notice as the list continues.) These games probably mean a lot to a lot of people, but I will never forget my first foray into portable games, romping through Kanto with my Blastoise in this classic.

8. Super Smash Bros. 

Oh man, this was the first competitive game that I ever truly ruled at. I remember it well; my mom won a bit of money off of a lottery ticket and as I was with her she offered to buy me one game, so off to Wal-Mart we went. I had my sights set on the original Mario Party because I had rented it a few times and my few friends and I always had fun with it, but a different game caught my eye when I stepped up to the glass case. I had no clue what Super Smash Bros. was or how long it had been out, but all it took was seeing some of my favorite characters ever displayed on the box art and I was sold. I got to introduce my friends to what would be come one of the best fighting/party game series ever and I played it til I had uncovered every single detail about it. Ness quickly became my favorite fighter and I would reign supreme over my friends with him to the point that they would get me to unlock him on their cartridges so they could try to match me. Another great childhood memory.

7. Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask

This may not be the popular choice, and even I will admit that it isn't technically the best Zelda game ever released, but it remains my favorite nonetheless. The dark atmosphere, depressing characters, and unique take on a classic formula had me in love with Majora's Mask for a long time. In fact, it was probably one of, if not THE first, single player games that I ever 100% completed alone. Every temple, every heart, every mask. I really hope this game gets the same treatment as Ocarina of Time 3D pretty soon.

6. Silent Hill 2

Silent Hill 2 is, in my opinion, the highlight of the series. The change in focus from survival horror to psychological horror really helped this team of devs show that they could make something not only unique, but brilliant. The story of Silent Hill 2 and how it is told is a masterpiece. Every thing you see or fight or hear has meaning, down to the way the camera is facing in a cutscene. This is a game that people could literally write essays about, in fact I have! It may not have the most riveting gameplay ever, but that does little to hold back this phenomenal experience.

5. Persona 4

I mentioned this in my piece on video game music, but I didn't get to play this game when it was first relevant. The vita release of P4: Golden allowed me to finally play this gem of a game. At first I wasn't sure I'd be as into it as I was with Persona 3 due to its seemingly more happy go lucky mood early on, not to mention the removal of the awesome P3 way of summoning your persona! I'm so happy I was proven wrong, this game is beyond amazing. It has such a great cast of characters, an intriguing story, and an interesting combat system. The actual dungeon crawling does leave a bit to be desired, but every time it cropped up I simply went through the entire dungeon at once and then went back to the social aspect. I went through the entirety of this 70 hour rpg in the course of 5 or 6 days while on break from college, and having to leave behind the characters I had spent my waking hours with for that week left me emotionally broken. If you have somehow not played Persona 4 at this point then you are doing yourself a disservice. You're not likely to find a better Dungeon Crawling Time Management Role Playing Social Sim anywhere.

4. Dark Souls

I always love challenging myself in video games, particularly ones that I am already having a great time with. Dark Souls is a game that I wasn't entirely sure of originally. I found it suitably challenging on my first time through, but the story, or lack thereof I felt at the time, left me wanting more. It wasn't until a friend of mine began regaling with the inner workings of the Dark Souls story and how it is told that I began to move from disappointment to love. Many people play the Souls games for the challenge, but not enough play it for the incredible story. It was difficult choosing between Dark Souls 1 and 2 for this spot, because I feel that while 1 had a better challenge and a wrap around world, 2 in my opinion had better mechanics and a slightly more intriguing world. Ultimately I've gone with 1 obviously but both are worth your time.

3. Final Fantasy 6

I love Final Fantasy. I've loved it since Final Fantasy 2 on the SNES (Final Fantasy 4 in reality) and I still love it today, despite the changes it has undergone. Final Fantasy 6 is the pinnacle of these great games in my humble opinion. Everyone seems to have a different favorite, from 7 (which I thought was very good but not as amazing as many seem to think) to 9 (one of my favorites) to 12 (which is an awesomely unique entry in the series.) FF6 had such a fantastic cast of characters, both obvious and hidden, and one of the best stories in rpg history. How many games let you try to save the world, FAIL, and then have to play through the second half of the game in the ruined world left over after the villain has won?

2. Mega Man X

Mega Man X is such a brilliant concept to me. Capcom took a cool and loved series and gave it a makeover in such a way that it retains its original appeal and formula while giving it a modern touch and more interesting mechanics. X blurs the line between sequel and reboot and it does so fabulously. I have probably played through Mega Man X more times than any other game ever. In fact just night before last I began playing through the X games again for nostalgia's sake. X and X4 are my personal favorites of this series, but the original will always stand on top in my eyes.

1. Chrono Trigger

There is no way that I could fully explain to you the majesty of Chrono Trigger in a paragraph, but I will damn sure try. Chrono Trigger goes for quality over quantity in terms of its characters in the best way possible. Featuring only 7 playable characters, one of which is optional, each of them has so much depth and great story behind them that it's difficult to pick a favorite...but I will and that favorite is Magus. The combat system is one of the best of the genre. It features a new take on the ATB system, with techniques that can be combined with other characters to perform double or even triple combo techniques. The side quests in Chrono Trigger have meaning and some even change the landscape of the world. There are a slew of different endings and the story is just phenomenal. It even spawned an excellent (if divisive) sequel with one of the largest casts of characters I've ever seen in a jrpg. I can't recommend this amazing game enough. Get it on DS, get the ps1 version on PSN, get an old SNES cartridge, hell download an emulator if you have to, just play this game.
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Video games are great. Music is great. Therefore video game music is great. It's simple math folks. I've played a lot of games in my time, but it wasn't until later in life that I really started appreciating the music that accompanied what I was playing. I've been listening to a lot of video game music lately and so I've decided to share some of my personal favorite tracks, along with fan remixes of most of them. I've tried to pick tracks from different eras of gaming so as not to just have a full list of SNES tracks, which would be easy enough to do on its own. Here we go!

Mega Man X - Armored Armadillo's Theme

Mega Man X is one of my favorite games. Growing up it was probably the game that I played through the most. It's full of great tracks to compliment its excellent gameplay and visuals. Armored Armadillo's stage is home to probably my favorite track from this entry and when you hear it I'm sure you'll understand why. If that alone isn't enough for you then have a listen to an awesome OCRemix of this track by clicking HERE.

Dark Souls - Gwyn, Lord of Cinder

Dark Souls is a pretty fantastic game, as I'm sure most of you already know. A game with such a dark and lonely atmosphere needs an equally mood setting soundtrack. The most amazing placement of a piece of music in this game, in my opinion, is that of Gwyn's theme while fighting him. The context of this track is what really makes it shine. Making your entire way through the game to finally meet with Gwyn and have your climactic final battle with this wonderful track playing in the background is perfectly haunting. As before, you can listen to a fan remix by clicking HERE.

Sonic Adventure 2/Sonic Generations - Escape from the City

The Sonic series is full of great tracks but this ridiculously fun song is by far my favorite. It's used in both Sonic Adventure 2 and its equivalent stage in Sonic Generations and it is a blast to have going while you're "rolling around at the speed of sound." This song hypes me up so much that I listen to it at the gym from time to time.

Transistor - We All Become

Really this spot could be pretty much any track that has been in either game from Supergiant Games. Darren Korb is absolutely brilliant with his music in both Bastion and Transistor and Ashley Barrett's vocals are always beautiful. The music in each game is so unique and Transistor really nailed it with these amazing tracks that fit both as a piece of a video game soundtrack as well as fitting into the canon of the game through the protagonist, Red, being a singer herself.

Final Fantasy 6 - Decisive Battle

Final Fantasy is another series that is full the brim with great tracks, from battle music to character themes, but Final Fantasy 6 has always stood out as my favorite and this particular track has always stayed in my memory. This really does nail down the fantastic boss fights you'll get to experience through the game and the track manages to both make the threat known to you as well as get you pumped to put an end to your adversary. In lieu of a fan remix for this one, how about a Smooth McGroove rendition? It can be found HERE.

Persona 4 - Heartbeat, Heartbreak

I went far too long in my life before playing Persona 4. I played Persona 3 when the Vita came out thanks to the PSP backwards compatibility, but it wasn't until P4 Golden that I finally got to play this amazing game. I enjoyed P4 so much that I played through it in its entirety over the course of 5 or 6 days, and that's about a 70 hour game. I practically lived the life of the protagonist for that week. Both 3 and 4 have some great tracks but this one really has me chilling out when walking around Inaba. For a great rendition of this track, you can listen to Destructoid's own Dale North perform it HERE.

Chrono Trigger - Corridors of Time

Ah, Chrono Trigger. It wouldn't be an overstatement to say that this is probably my favorite game of all time. I've even been considering doing an in depth write up about exactly why that is. I'll try not to gush too much over it here, but the music, along with everything else in Chrono Trigger, is amazing. This track has stuck with me through the years without fail; a mysterious and magical track for the equally mysterious and magical kingdom of Zeal. For an incredible fan rendition of this track click HERE.

[Honorable Mention] Dragon's Dogma - Into Free

You can say you hate it, but deep down I know you love it.

Well that's all for now folks, I hope you've enjoyed listening!

10:07 AM on 07.11.2014


This is the first entry in what I hope will be a regular series in which I shed light on games many may not have heard of. This first piece will be a relatively short one as it is on a similarly short game. Hopefully these will get meatier as I make my way through more obscure games. If you know of any great, not particularly well known titles, from any era of gaming, then by all means let me know.

Titan Souls is the name of two projects that occupy a single idea. Currently it is being developed as a full game by developer Acid Nerve to be published by Devolver Digital. In its original form, however, Titan Souls is a brief yet brilliant result of last year's Ludum Dare game jam. It was developed by three guys over the course of three days, led only by the theme: “You only get one.”

The concept of Titan Souls is that you are an unnamed protagonist who must kill four dangerous bosses. The first three of these “titans” can be killed in any order, but the final will be locked off until you've dealt with the original three. The theme of only getting one applies to more than one facet of this experience, it applies in three ways in fact. You only get one arrow as a weapon, you only get one “health point”, and bosses only require one hit to their weak spot to be defeated.

This is a game that is elegant in its simplicity. You only have two action buttons to make use of while using the arrow keys to move your character around. Your first button allows you to roll, obviously something that will be important to your titan slaying career. The second button is held down and released to draw and fire your single arrow that you'll be using to take down the bosses. After firing your single arrow, it slows to a stop and upon holding the arrow button down again it will slowly begin to return to you.

This will not be a long experience, even if you struggle to get the hang of the game at first. As it was made in such a short time you can hardly hold it against them. I am hesitant to say that the game doesn't have a story, because a game with such an excellent atmosphere and an especially good ending surely has at least a basic story behind it, even if that story exists only in its creator's head. Its visual style is not complex but the pixel art is very well done and its music is excellent at setting the mood.

As I mentioned earlier, Titan Souls is currently being developed as a fully fleshed game (by the original three creators no less) to be released on at least the PS4 and PS Vita, I'm not entirely sure about their plans for other platforms. The full release will have more bosses, a better engine running it, and an overall level of polish that comes with having a reasonable amount of time to create a game. The creators are obviously very passionate about this project and I can't help but be excited about getting my hands on the final product when it comes out early 2015.

If you'd like to check out the original game jam version of Titan Souls you can go to the Ludum Dare page by clicking HERE. It can be downloaded or played in your browser. If you'd like to learn more about Acid Nerve then you can check them out HERE where you can get links to their twitters, facebook, etc. You can also get a sneak peak at a couple of early screenshots and audio tracks from the upcoming release there. Give the game jam version a shot and I'm sure you'll be as interested in the full release as I am. If this is what these guys are capable of with only 72 hours of development time, then I can't wait to see what they can do with all the time they need.
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Divinity: Original Sin is the newest release from Larian Studios, known pretty much exclusively for their other Divinity titles. Original Sin is a turn based rpg that exists today because of a very successful Kickstarter campaign which describes the game as “an old-school cRPG with new ideas & modern execution” and having finally finished I can attest that this is indeed accurate.

Playing through Original Sin has been a trial my friends. This game released on the 30th of June and I have played it pretty exclusively since; clocking in around 60 hours to get through the campaign and the side stories along the way. This 60 hours has been full of many mixed feelings, back and forth throughout my playthrough. Let's start with the basics.

In Original Sin you control two main characters of your own creation; a male and female from an order of Source Hunters. “Source” is a powerful type of magic that has existed for centuries but is tainted by darkness and often used for nefarious purposes, which is why your characters hunt down those who wield it. You begin the game by arriving by ship at a place known as Cyseal, where a murder has recently taken place and source may have been involved. What begins as a murder mystery eventually evolves into a much larger and deadlier adventure that will send you not just across the land of Cyseal but other realms as well.

You can actually play through Original Sin with a friend controlling one of your two main characters if you like thanks to the built in co-op. If you have a friend who would be willing to accompany you on a 60 hour long journey then this may be the best way to go as you can work together to solve puzzles and get through combat. Your two main characters can also converse with each other and even argue with one another when the time comes to make decisions. You can have up to a party of four characters total but there are currently only two companions who have personalities and stories for you to uncover. I believe Larian is in the process of making more to add in at a later date.

You are free to move around pretty much as openly as you please right from the start. I suppose technically it could be called an open world game as you can go off in any direction, but the level differences in this game don't play around and if you go somewhere you're not meant to go yet you'll know. Your first two or three levels will pretty much entirely be spent in the first town of the game helping people out, exploring, and trying to solve the murder. When I say “two or three levels” you may think that's likely not much time really, but this game handles leveling in a rather slow manner. As I mentioned before I spent about 60 hours on this game and when I finished the story I was only level 20. This brings one of my first issues to the table: the progression.

The growth and empowering of your characters is done in two ways: leveling and skill books. Leveling at its core is how you'd imagine from a crpg; you gain experience, gain a level, and distribute points. Unfortunately, as leveling is a relatively slow process in this game, you can pretty easily feel like you're not really getting stronger. This is made even more annoying (in my opinion at least) by the fact that the points you receive upon leveling aren't consistent.

There are three different types of points you can earn by leveling: attribute points, ability points, and talent points. Attribute points are exactly as you'd expect, going into the primary attributes of Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, Constitution, Speed, and Precision. Ability points are used to increase various secondary statistics and your ability to use skills. These points can do anything from increasing your damage with one handed weapons, to increasing your ability to use water magic, to simply increasing your crafting or ability to argue. Finally, talent points allow you to gain very specific passive abilities of a wide variety. You'll only ever gain one talent point at a time and talents range from letting your character carry more weight, to healing them when they stand in blood, to letting them talk to animals (actually one of the most important talents in the game, believe it or not.) Here's the thing though: you never know which points you're going to get upon leveling. I don't think its random, I would assume that the game is set to give you specific points at specific levels, but one level you'll get an attribute point and a few ability points and another you may only gain ability points.

Moving away from the progression system, let's talk about the most intricate part of the game: the combat. As mentioned before, combat in Original Sin is turn based and it is very deep. Your movements and actions are restricted by a system called action points. Everything your characters do costs action points while in combat. Your stats will determine your starting AP and how many you restore each turn. You'll not just be using your weapons and magic to take out enemies, you'll have to manipulate the environment as well.

Allow me to give you an example! You enter combat with your warrior and mage against a few undead. Your mage drops oil onto the enemies, slowing them down. Your mage can then set fire to said oil, not only burning the enemies but the ground as well. Don't want your melee characters walking into the fire? Cast a rain spell to get rid of the fire both on the ground and on characters. If your enemies are standing in a puddle created by the rain then you can now use an electric spell to electrify the water, stunning those standing in it. The list of environmental effects and their combos goes on.

You will be forced to use everything at your disposal to get through many of the combat encounters in Original Sin and you may likely need to abuse quicksave files. If you go into a fight and get destroyed you can then load a previous save and try again, but this time with knowledge of the lay of the land and what enemies to target first. My personal favorite ways to get the drop on a group of enemies is to either hurl an exploding fireball in before the encounter even starts to get enemies burning, or to immediately use a teleportation spell on the most important enemy and give him an express trip to the area right next to my two handed warrior.

I very much enjoy the combat system in place in Original Sin, but it also has its share of strange design choices. The game has its share of both buffs and debuffs for both your characters and npc's alike to make use of, BUT while you can hover over buffs and debuffs that your characters have to see precisely what effect they have, as far as I could tell there was no way to see what exactly the buffs that enemies have are giving them. Another strange part of the combat is strange because it's never really explained (having nothing explained to you is something you'll have to get used to playing this game) and that is the way your hit chance works.

Early on hit worked in a pretty straight forward fashion, as spells can't really miss and my two melee characters had an 85-100% chance to hit anything their level or lower. After a certain point however things started to change. Nearing the end of the game there were plenty of encounters where I would have anywhere from a 50-75% to hit enemies that I was of equal level with. In fact, in one particular encounter I battled about six enemies, all of whom were a level lower than my party, and only had about a 70% chance or so to hit any of them. According to the tooltips from hovering over primary attributes; strength increases your chance to hit with strength based weapons, and dexterity for dexterity based weapons. With both of my melee characters being strength fighters they naturally had plenty of strength but it didn't seem to fix the hit problem.

It is entirely possible that this system is currently bugged, as there are an unfortunately noticeable number of bugs and spelling mistakes in the game. These range from simple things that don't get in the way of anything to larger bugs such as one I encountered where a door I had to get through to continue the story was open on my screen but the game refused to let me walk through it. I also had a very strange experience where I noticed an object in my inventory that I didn't recognize and it didn't have a tooltip. Upon trying to drop the item onto the ground my game crashed. I still have no idea what that item is but it is still there in my bags. To be fair to Larian however they have been pretty on the ball about rolling out bug fixes since release and I would be surprised if many (or any) of the bigger bugs stick around for long.

My final bit of mixed feelings comes from the game's dedication to its lack of hand holding. Early on I was very much grateful for it as I loved running around solving the murder mystery and other puzzles without much in the way of hints. It's a great feeling to solve an intricate puzzle without having a big glowing arrow pointing at the answer. As time passed though the game's idea of puzzles twisted away from “Solve the mystery!” and more towards “Spot the very tiny buttons hidden on the walls!” The most frustrating portion of the entire game for me took place in one such “puzzle” where I was stuck teleporting through an endlessly revolving set of rooms with no real puzzle in sight.

I have never had to post on the steam discussion boards asking for help in the entirety of my time gaming on Steam but I certainly had to this time. Thanks to the help of the fine people on those boards I discovered that only characters with enough points put into their “Perception” stat, used for finding hidden traps and secrets in the environment, could spot a single tiny button in one of the rooms. If there is a more down to earth way of getting through that puzzle then I couldn't find anyone who knew of it. I hope I don't need to explain just how poor of a design decision it is to have a puzzle that is vital to the main storyline that requires you to have a certain amount of points in a specific stat to be able to progress.

On a more positive note I did actually very much enjoy the story of the game, which I unfortunately can't really share much of without spoiling but needless to say you'll be fighting for the fate of the world and not just solving a murder the entire game. The music is also excellent and has a fantastic range. Visually it's a very appealing game as well and, while I didn't tryout the co-op, playing alone I ran into no problems running the game.

Now, I've had quite a lot to say about Original Sin, both good and bad, but I don't want you to come away from this thinking that I didn't enjoy my romp through the world of Rivellon. Overall I actually think that this is a very solid game and most of the problems I mentioned only show up enough to remind you that they're there but don't stick around. The intricate combat is a blast to use and the world is vibrant and full of life, both hostile and friendly. It's available on the Steam store for $40 and you'll certainly get your money's worth in terms of content. The game even features an easy difficulty if you're not sure you're capable of handling the challenge, as well as a hard difficulty for those who aren't challenged enough.

If you're into crpg's I'd certainly advise you to look into it. Divinity: Original Sin isn't without its fair share of rough edges, but you're not likely to play another game like it, and for the most part I mean that in a good way.
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Shovel Knight is the first game from developer Yacht Club Games and is the result of a very successful kickstarter campaign. In fact their kickstarter, which describes the game as “A groundbreaking love letter to 8 bits,” received over $300,000 of their initial goal of $75,000. It's easy to tell that right from the start this was a game that a lot of people believed in, myself included. Yacht Club Games worked hard to not only create the game they wanted to make, but to help make sure people knew about it. Now that it's out we can finally experience this love letter to 8 bit games that actually manages to become what it emulates.

Shovel Knight seeks to pay homage to classic games of many of our youths, featuring Megaman style bosses, a Super Mario Bros. 3 overworld, Zelda II style town exploration, Duck Tales style platforming and treasure hunting, even delicious Castlevania wall-chicken! With all of these throwbacks, fantastic as they are, it would be easy to assume that the game may just be a patchwork of other games with little to call its own. After finally getting to sit down and really dig deep into Shovel Knight I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this is a game that stands on its own two armored feet. It may have many inspirations, but this game was born for greatness of its own.

Gameplay is designed exquisitely in a simple yet deep way with a control scheme that could easily be played on an NES controller if you could hook one up to your computer. You've got movement, start and select buttons, and then one button for jump and another for attack, that's it. You'll dig through enemies and jump around plenty but it's deeper than just that. Your attack is capable of deflecting projectiles sent your way, essentially giving you a way to throw attacks back at their source. Also, while jumping you can hold down on your d-pad / joystick to hold your shovel beneath you in a Scrooge McDuck fashion to bounce over enemies and obstacles alike, save for the occasional spike pit. It doesn't simply emulate the pogo stick style however, it makes it its own by changing it in such a way that rather than simply being able to bounce on everything (ground included) you can only use the “shovel drop” to bounce off of enemies, large dirt blocks, and certain pieces of the environment. This gives you the awesome bouncing combat, without having it take over the game.

Your abilities don't end there however, thanks to the inclusion of items known as relics that can be found throughout the world and used by holding up and pressing attack. These work as sort of a combination of the items from Zelda and the secondary weapons of Castlevania. You'll get anchors that can be thrown in an arc, little green orbs that will bounce around dealing damage, and a rod that shoots fire balls, but they can be accessed on the fly through a menu screen and are restricted by what are essentially mana points that are shared by all items.

These relics are never free however. Relics are bought with the gold you acquire through dungeon crawling. A few of these relics can be bought from the village, but for the most part you'll find the the relic dealer hiding away in the hidden sections of levels. You can also use gold to purchase upgrades for your shovel and armor; everything from a charge attack to armor that makes you drop less gold on death to (my personal favorite) a gold set of armor that makes you sparkly and acrobatic while providing no actual benefit whatsoever. You can also spend your money acquiring health and mana upgrades.

You won't always be gaining gold though, you'll occasionally lose it through a mechanic reminiscent of the Souls series that causes you to drop a fourth of your gold when you die. If you can make it back to where you died you can retrieve this gold, but dying on your way there will cause the original gold you were trying to re-obtain to disappear. This actually presents one of the very few issues I had, not with the mechanic itself (which I really like) but the fact that occasionally the gold you drop will be left in a spot where you can't physically reach it without dying.

Levels are presented as you'd expect, in a 2D side-scrolling fashion with screen by screen exploration and plenty of hidden paths and destructible walls hiding gems and food. These levels are actually quite lengthy which was a very nice surprise. To help you out through these long and sometimes treacherous levels are checkpoints standing at set intervals. Walking by one activates it, giving you a safe place to spawn at as many times as it takes upon death. There are a decent number of these which should help those who didn't grow up on old school games. If you seek an extra bit of difficulty, and an extra bit of reward, you can actually destroy these checkpoints to get additional gems. Dying after destroying a checkpoint will simply take you back to the most recent checkpoint that you left intact, or the beginning of the level if you didn't leave any.

Speaking of challenge, I actually found the game to not be as difficult as I anticipated considering its inspirations. I don't mean to say that it is an easy game, in fact I've heard that quite a few have been having some trouble with it, but there is a way to give it that truly old school feel. Upon beating Shovel Knight you can reload your completed save to begin New Game +. However, unlike many NG+ adventures, this game decides to give you a run for your money your second time through. You'll keep your upgrades and items but enemies and traps will hit harder, many checkpoints will no longer exist, and all wall-chicken that would be found throughout a level is replaced with a less enticing surprise. This means that, aside from the rare bit of carrot or apple that you may found hidden in a dig pile in a level, you'll only regain health through death or by using the equivalent of a Zelda style health potion(in a fittingly Zelda “empty bottle” style chalice). It's an absolute blast both times, especially considering that after playing through once and learning the ropes, you'll likely want a challenge fitting of someone with your experience. New Game + offers just that.

Visually, as someone who grew up on the NES and SNES, I found the game to be beautiful in its 8-bit glory. It does its best to work within the restraints of the NES color palette while also adding a few modern touches to make it truly the highpoint of retro style visuals. Everything from the HUD to the settings to the characters are highly reminiscent of the old days. And the music? Oh man, the music is so good. It is so easy to sit and play this game and completely forget you're playing something that has just released and not something that came out in 1990 and that is a glorious feeling.

With a fantastic core game, an excellently crafted NG+, an in game “feat” system to give you goals to aim for, and plenty more content currently being developed thanks to the stretch goals reached through Kickstarter, this game is hands down a must own. Forget the AAA titles, forget the steam sale, go and pay Yacht Club Games your respect with a $15 purchase and experience this fantastic throwback title. Shovel Knight wants to show its love for the classics of days gone by, but I sincerely believe that this game will end up joining them as classic of its own.
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9:22 PM on 06.15.2014

Destiny is the brand new IP coming from Bungie, the former creators of Halo. You'd have to have been living under a rock for the past year to not have heard of this game and its high reaching ambitions. Destiny seeks to be a first person shooter RPG in an MMO shell set in a futuristic sci-fi setting. Is it serious faced Borderlands? Is it Halo the MMO? In a way, yeah.

The most important thing to bring up before going into any detail about my time with Destiny is that it is currently in Alpha, meaning it's still got plenty of polishing and balancing and whatnot to go through. The build that I played is very short and has only a fraction of the content that I'd expect to be in at release. In its current state it consisted of one very early story mission to get you acquainted with how the game works, one extremely large zone to explore and do randomized quests in, one pvp mode, a level cap of 8, 3 races for character creation, and 3 classes (which I'm pretty sure are actually each one specific subclass of their respective overarching classes.)

The best way I can describe Destiny would be to take the basic ARPG framework that Borderlands uses, apply it to a very Halo-esque setting, and make it massively multiplayer. In Destiny you'll run around in first person with your gun making numbers pop up when you shoot at enemies and having some pretty interesting abilities to toss around depending on your class. You'll pick up loot, do quests, and interact with other players (if you so choose.)

The 3 classes available to me were the Warlock, the Titan, and the Hunter. The majority of my time was spend with the lock but I made sure to try out all of them. There don't seem to be any gear restrictions based on your class, so the choice you make is purely about which special abilities you want available to you. As far as I can tell, the class specific abilities boil down to 4 things: your grenade (all of which auto-replenish on a cool down), your super ability, a melee augmentation, and a special jetpack depending on your class.

As a Warlock your grenade is one with an interesting void power. When thrown it explodes and leaves behind a circle of void that drains the health of anything still standing in its radius. Your super ability pulls the camera back into third person (as they all do by the way) and your character hurls a ball of void energy at the ground causing a pretty impressive looking explosion. The warlock melee is best described as using your void powers as if they were the force to blast enemies directly in front of you. Your augment for that gives it an absorption factor so that when off cooldown it will steal energy from foes and lower the cooldown on your grenade. The jetpack you get as a warlock is one that excels at hovering, good for getting a bit more distance from a jump.

Titans on the other hand are equipped with flashbang grenades. These still do damage, but also have a stun effect. The Titan super ability has your character leaping forward and slamming their fists into the ground causing a huge and deadly shockwave. Your melee with this class is probably the most uninspired, though surprisingly satisfying to perform, as you simply walk up and punch people in the face. The augmentation, fittingly, just gives the punch extra damage when its off cooldown. The Titan's jetpack works as a booster for helping you get get higher up.

Finally, the Hunter uses an incendiary grenade. This works exactly as you'd expect; it explodes and sets everything in its radius on fire. Your super ability summons an incendiary pistol which will essentially one shot anything, providing you hit with it, but only has about 3 bullets. The hunter's melee is a knife stab, and when its augmentation is off cooldown you can throw the knife for a strong ranged attack. Your jet pack as a hunter simply provides you with a run of the mill double jump.

When creating your character you are given your choice of 3 different races, each with a decent amount of customization. You've got humans (who are exactly how you'd expect them), Exos (who are essentially robots), and Awoken (who appear as sort of neo-humans with pale bodies and glowing eyes.) While overall I was decently satisfied with the customization offered, there was one major flaw: not a single person was capable of having a beard. Come on Bungie.

When exploring the world, or at least the zone available in the Alpha, you are given access to a speeder bike that can be summoned on the fly to help speed your way around. Different speeders can be bought and I'm sure there will be even more variety to them in the full game. After being given the reins to explore on your own you can do an assortment of pretty generic “sidequest” material, but there are also public events that can spawn in the world, though they could stand to happen more often. There is a hub area known as the Tower, where you can visit vendors, have encrypted gear decrypted (in a very Diablo “identify item” sort of way), and pick up bounties. Bounties are like personal challenges that reward you with experience and unique currency needed for pvp or pve specific reputations.

There was only one pvp mode available to me, which played like your typical 6v6 Domination match. The objective was to try and maintain control of the 3 labeled zones on the map. The pvp was very fast paced, with people on both sides dying relatively quickly. I played 4 or 5 games of it and only saw two different maps but they were complete opposites of each other. The first was on a moon base and had a large open area with a couple of small buildings and domes. There were also vehicles to toy around with, particularly the “pike” which is a weaponized version of the standard bike everyone is given for pve. There were also your standard stationary turrets to help protect a couple of the domination zones. The second map was a very dense set of ruins in a partially flooded, very overtaken with nature kind of area. It features a lot of narrow paths and corners to catch people off guard.

The pvp seems to be done in level brackets, but it was hard to tell exactly what was done to balance out levels. If I had to guess I'd say that gear is simply beefed up to match what that quality of gear would be like at the max level of the bracket you're in. At level 8 I played against level 4's, but they seemed to be just as effective as level 7's.

I'm fairly sure from my time looking through the vendors that the max level will be 20 in the final game, but if that's the case they may want to look into slowing down the leveling process. It could very well be that leveling was sped up for testing purposes but it certainly didn't take long to hit the Alpha max of 8. That being said however, I'm fairly certain that your character's level isn't actually tied to your abilities.

It seems that abilities are leveled up on their own, I would assume based on how often they're used. You have a full grid of abilities and upgrades for those abilities to look through, and each seems to have its own sort of experience bar. Similarly weapons and armor seem to gain experience of their own, allowing you to upgrade high quality gear with different scopes or effects. Again it's hard to say for certain as there wasn't really anywhere to go for specific details.

Overall I can say that I really did enjoy my time with this alpha build of Destiny. There will need to be a ton more content available at launch, as well as a few tweaks here and there, but the game really has been pretty fun and it definitely looks good in motion. Surprisingly I encountered very few bugs in my time with the game, just an elite enemy whose body continued to stand around after dying and getting disconnected from one of my multiplayer matches near the end.

If you enjoy Halo, sci fi, rpg shooters, or any combination of the above, then I would recommend keeping your eye on this one as it approaches release. The big question here, as with all MMO style games, is will the developers be able to deliver enough content to keep people playing? For the answer to that we'll all have to wait for September 9 when the game comes out.

Oh, and did I mention that Peter Dinklage voices your AI companion? That's a thing.
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