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    Biomutant Review

    Title: Biomutant Released On: May 25, 2021 Genre: RPG, Action-Adventure Reviewed On: Xbox Series X Also Available On: PlayStation 5/4, PC, Xbox One Developer: Experiment 101 Publisher: THQ Nordic MSRP: $59.99 USD / $59.99 CAD


    After an extended development, the premiere title from fledgling indie developer Experiment 101 is in our hands, and it has released to some of the most varied reviews we’ve seen in a while. In our usual vein, Scholarly Gamers is going to cut through all of the noise and critiques, many which had little to do with the finished product itself, to give you our in-depth and spoiler-free analysis of Biomutant. Unsurprisingly to this reviewer, Biomutant hits all the notes, providing an engaging and unique take on the post-apocalyptic genre.

    Biomutant is an open-world kung-fu action RPG that absolutely oozes personality from the moment you begin your adventure. The contrast of the bright watercolour-styled environmental palette against the post-apocalyptic landscape creates a beautiful juxtaposition and sprawls into a world just begging to be explored. Featuring an exceptionally versatile and free-flowing combat system that truly lives up to it’s kung-fu aspirations, tied together with a thoughtful narrative that is as engaging and it is impactful, Biomutant truly excels in every area.

    Being one of the post-launch reviews is a double-edged sword. You are able to see what other outlets and journalists have thought about the game, but it is important to not become mired in other opinions that may impact your own. With this in mind, I felt that for a game like Biomutant it was important to address in a roundabout way some of the criticism, which verged more on nit-picking in some cases, that has occurred surrounding the launch. While I won’t directly speak to any points that were raised by others, I will touch on some of the themes throughout my review which I felt were somewhat unfairly thrust upon Experiment 101 and Biomutant.

    It is important to understand where Biomutant comes from, but as reviewers we have to focus on the whole product in its final form, and not take into account things like it’s development path — which admittedly was a tumultuous one — when we are reviewing the full release. As critics, is it imperative that we point out technical flaws and shortcomings, while simultaneously iterating the successes and high-points of a game, but sometimes what gets lost in the quest to be critical is the pure and simple goal of what games are supposed to be: fun.

    Which is exactly what Biomutant is. Pure, unabashed and whimsical fun,

    In Biomutant you play as an outsider who has risen from the depths to re-join the New World on the surface; a world that is teetering on the brink of catastrophe because of the severe environmental impact of the Toxonol Corporation. Many years have passed since humans inhabited Earth, and the planet has been reclaimed by all manners of anthropomorphic creatures who have been changed by the toxins that leeched into the water, soil, and all living things. The World Tree, the gigantic behemoth that lies at the very center of your map, is the last defense of the planet against the ravages of pollution, and the rise of gigantic beasts know as the Worldeaters.

    From the earliest moments of the game you are given the option to try and save the world, or help bring it all down. Much has happened on the surface since you descended underground, and the once peaceful Tribes that followed your Mother have broken their pacts and waged war upon one another. This combined with the destruction of the Worldeaters threatens to break the tenuous balance of a world on the brink of collapse, and you must forge a path to determine its outcome. Trained by your mother in the art of Wung-Fu, it is up to you to decide if you want to reunite the Tribes and save the world, or expedite its destruction.

    As an environmentalist, I chose to follow the path of Light to try and save the World Tree and reunite the tribes, but there are very different repercussions depending on the path you choose.

    There are a number of core objectives to tackle in Biomutant — namely reuniting or conquering the Tribes and confronting the Worldeaters — in addition to an absolute wealth of side missions, collectibles, puzzles, and areas to explore. It’s quite easy to get distracted on your way to complete a mission, but that’s one of the core components in an engaging open-world game. You’ll stumble across new characters, and old friends, through your travels that will assist you in tackling your weighty objectives, as well as hand out some of their own missions. Some of these quests are integral to your journey, such as building the Mekton or Googlide to help fight the gargantuan Worldeaters, and others just add colour and substance to the world.

    With so many objectives to tackle, one of the biggest strengths of Biomutant is that the player is given a substantial amount of choice in how they want to approach everything from the main story objectives, to how you interact with any given character or situation you encounter. You can approach the main or side missions in any order you want, provided that you have the ability to survive in some of the harsher biomes. Your character develops through the actions that you take, both Light and Dark, which is represented by your Aura. NPCs that you encounter will engage with you depending on this Aura, as well as on certain actions you have (or have not) taken, and advancing your Aura towards either spectrum unlocks access to new abilities.

    The choices made available to the player aren’t just limited to making simple “good or evil” decisions during dialogues, but extend to the ability to tackle quests in a multitude of ways. I won’t go too in-depth with these because the discovery of the ways you can impact the game world is part of the joy behind Biomutant, but I’ll give a core example. Defeating and subjugating the other Tribes is one of the main objectives, but how you go about this can vary substantially. At one point instead of raiding a base like I had been doing all along, I was able to convince a rival Tribe leader to surrender their fort to me without even having to fight, since my Charisma was high enough. It’s these types of choices that add a much-appreciated nuance to the gameplay, as well as substantial replayability for future playthroughs.

    The kung-fu combat in Biomutant is as fluid and varied as it is fun. Much like the rest of the game, there is a substantial amount of choice given to how the player wants to engage in combat, and the combination of melee weapons, ranged weapons, Mutations and Wung-Fu abilities — not to mention the Super Wung-Fu state that you enter after executing special moves — means that combat never gets stagnant. You can flow seamlessly from combo to combo, breaking them up with special abilities, and really feel like the star of your own furry kung-fu story. The frenetic combat is interspersed with brief moments of slow-time, and presented stylishly with pops of colourful comic-book styled onomatopoeia, a-la the classic 1960s Batman.

    In addition to your equipped weapons, your character can learn a host of Psi-Powers and Biogenetics, both which are mutation abilities which allow you to unleash weird and wonderful powers on your foes. The learnable powers range from the comparatively mundane, like spewing toxic waste or dashing forward in a trail of flames, to the absolutely wacky, including bouncy mushrooms and mind-controlling moths. My personal favorite was the Mucus Bubble which allows you to roll over enemies and adhere to them, making it easy to execute massive Area of Effect attacks on everyone in your bubble; or to burst it and send them scattering.

    There is some repetition to the specific button combinations that allow you to execute your various movesets (which are based on the weapons you have equipped) but this felt like it was more to make the transition between fighting styles more fluid. I could switch from using a two-handed sword and dual-pistols to dual-blades and a shotgun on the fly, and not feel like I had to re-learn a whole new move-set. The switch made combat feel fresh, but I was able to execute new moves using similar button combos. It’s a feature of the game that has received some criticism, but is really meant to increase the accessibility of the games varied combat system. Instead of falling into the usual trap of utilizing the same weapons because you are more comfortable with them, it allowed me to experience everything Biomutant had to offer in a very logical way.

    The insanely frenetic combat is seriously helped by the sheer fact that the game plays so smoothly. Right from the onset I felt like I was playing a “kung fu fable”, and the tight controls and your interactions with enemies and the environment help to invoke this feeling. The larger aspects, like well-timed slow-motion when you execute a specific move, to the little things like being able to stick to a surface to double jump off of it, all help to evoke the lightweight but hard-hitting combat system.

    The only human voice in the game, apart from the angel and devil on your shoulder trying to pull you towards the Light and Dark auras respectively, is that of the Narrator, your Automaton. His consistent analysis of your character’s situation was fantastic, and there are quite a number of contextual comments that he will make depending on your location or the situations that you find yourself in. At one point while crossing a bridge he pipes up “It’s a bridge…get over it” and then proceeds to laugh at his own joke. It’s a welcome and charming companion that adds both levity to your adventure, as well as grounds it through astute observations about your actions and the degradation of the world.

    It’s another aspect of the game which has received a wealth of criticism, which was frankly quite unfounded. The majority of the criticism stemmed from how much the narrator chimed in; something which you can change, or completely turn off, in the menus. This feature has been available since launch, and I was personally quite confused as to why it got so much attention. In addition to being able to change the frequency of the Narrator’s interjections, there are a host of other Quality of Life and gameplay options which the player can alter to change up a variety of game aspects.

    Frankly, I can’t actually understand what people’s issue with the Narrator is. The consistent quips by the Automaton are a welcome addition to the game as you’re traveling through the wilderness. Commenting on everything from the weather and changing of the day, to your prowess (or lack thereof) in battle, I found that I absolutely loved having this constant assessment of the world’s activities. It feels like you have David Attenborough narrating your adventure like you’re playing through a post-apocalyptic Planet Earth.

    Biomutant’s key themes are not hidden in the undercurrent of the narrative, but rather thrust at the player through the omnipresent state of the world. The degradation of the environment is consistently referenced through the story, namely by your Automaton recounting the history of the world pieced together from bulletin boards and contextually as you travel the world, but it is also plain to see in every set-piece you encounter. The ignorance of humans to how seriously they were expediting the destruction of the world through the dumping of chemicals and waste was not lost on this reviewer, as there is assuredly a mirror being held up to reflect our own society.

    There is beauty in the decay though, and every environment in Biomutant just begs to be explored thoroughly. Experiment 101 has done a brilliant job creating a post-apocalyptic world that is also teeming with life and colour. From the dilapidated suburbs that litter the lush greenery of the Whereabouts, to the sprawling wastes of the Deadzone and Kluppy Dunes, there are crumbling memories of the Before Time that are littered with collectibles and optional objectives. If the charming whimsy of the world wasn’t enough to entice players to comb through every nook and cranny, the optional loot-based objectives found in every locale will assuredly do so. Completionists will find a plethora of areas to scour that are off the beaten path, which often require a more thorough exploration or some puzzle solving. The logic puzzles contained throughout Biomutant which are required for certain collectibles aren’t challenging enough to be off-putting, and were mostly fairly straight-forward and rather simple.

    This is in addition to the fact that Biomutant brings in an almost Metroidvania approach to its exploration; many areas aren’t immediately or easily accessibly unless you have mutated the right resistances, are wearing the correct armour, or have built one of the fantastical vehicles which are useful for both exploration and combat. Traversal in Biomutant is just as varied as actually exploring the environments. In addition to being able to tame the wild mounts you’ll encounter throughout the game, the host of whimsical characters you’ll encounter will equip you with useful mechanical means of transportation. These vehicles are not only necessary for exploring the different biomes of the world, each which has its own detrimental effect which will quickly bring your character down without the proper protection, but for taking down the Worldeaters which reside there.

    These biomes don’t simply present an environmental challenge for the player to overcome; each area presents a complete change in scenery, enemies, and strategies that you’ll need to tackle each. It all circles back to the impressive amount of work that has went into the worldcraft of Biomutant. One of Biomutant’s strengths is how endearing and engaging its world is. There is a charm to seeing a post-apocalyptic world through the lens of the creatures who came after.  All of the names for common items from our present day, of the “back-then” as it is referred to, range from adorable to hilarious, and it gives a whimsical life to your adventure.

    There is so much loot in Biomutant, but almost all of it is useful. The game features an impressively innovative crafting system, both for melee/range weapons and armour, which allows the player to construct their post-apocalyptic dream gear out of the base items they collect. Finally crafting your Pew-Pew Pingsprutka with a Tumbly Drum and a Peekaboo, while mix-and-matching Ronin armour with a polar bear beanie, is truly a feeling of ultimate customization. There is a seemingly limitless combination of weapons and armour, all of which comes out looking fantastic on your character. I don’t remember the last time I got this much enjoyment from a crafting system, and it’s one that works hand-in-hand with the games implicit urge to explore and uncover everything. The best gear parts can be found in Old World Vaults, abandoned Shoperias, and other landmarks.

    My only issue with the crafting and customization system is that we aren’t given any option to re-skin pieces of armour using ones that we have already collected, but this is the case with most games. I just found it hard to get rid of a mask or hat that I was particularly fond of in exchange for one with better resistances, but this speaks to the overall versatility around gear sets in the game, and the Outfits system allows you to easily swap custom sets on the fly.

    I just love to say out-loud the things that I am doing while playing Biomutant. “I’m off to Stronken the Klonkfist.” “Time to re-stroy the Bangbitsky Jupspitko.” There is something about it that is just gleeful, and I absolutely loved all of the whimsical words used for regular items.

    At the end of the day, Biomutant is all about giving absolute choice to the player in how they want to engage with the world, while understanding the impact that you have on its survival and that of its inhabitants. You can even alter your DNA and completely change the look of your character, or strip down and rework crafted weapons at any point; it’s all to give that ultimate freedom of choice to the player. It’s an open-world RPG that engaged me in a way I haven’t experienced in years, since I’m used to having much more concrete direction thrust upon me. Biomutant wants you to interact with and shape the world as you see fit, giving you the tools to keep combat and traversal fresh along every step of the way.

    Biomutant excels in every area, but mostly through creating a world that you want to spend time in. The constant chiming-in of the narrator, the hilariously cutesy names that have been given to all of the Old World tech, and the beautiful set-pieces that beg to be explored. The way that everything is framed in the New World gives a vibrancy and realism to the environment that makes you want to backflip your way through every single objective, and as you progress through the game you genuinely feel like your actions have an impact on the world around you. Even though you’re playing as an anthropomorphic fox-beast, it is easy to make the connection between the world of Biomutant and our own, a theme which I am deeply grateful for being explored in such depth.


    Final Score: 9/10

    Biomutant is the type of open-ended RPG that we need more of, giving absolute choice and direction to the player, while still pulling us along through an engaging narrative and thoroughly entertaining gameplay.

    The review copy of this game was a digital code provided by the publisher.

     

    Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarok Review

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    Title: Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarok Released On: March 10, 2022 Genre: Action-Adventure Reviewed On: Xbox Series X Developer: Ubisoft Montreal Publisher: Ubisoft MSRP: $39.99 USD / $49.99 CAD


    In what is possibly the most highly anticipated DLC for an Assassin’s Creed game ever, the latest major expansion Dawn of Ragnarok has brought Eivor (Havi) back to the Nine Realms of Norse mythology. Following the events of Asgard and Jotunheim, Havi must stand together with the Dwarves against Surtr and the Muspels who have invaded from their Muspelheim and waged war upon Svartalfheim. It is a powerful story of loss and vengeance, which follows Havi on their quest to find Baldr and help the Dwarven inhabitants of the plane fight back against the Muspel invasion.

    Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarok is the third major DLC for the game, but the first that can be experienced as a standalone installment. Dawn of Ragnarok has a suggested power level of 340, and anyone who has completed the main game or delved substantially into Paris or Ireland will likely have already reached this threshold. It’s not an adventure to be taken lightly, and is full of some of the most dangerous enemies that you’ll have faced during your adventures in Valhalla.

    Luckily for those who want to jump right into the action, there is an option to start a new game and head straight for Svartalfheim. It is not something that I would personally recommend, unless you are only looking to experience the final arc of the mythological narrative in Valhalla. While there are no major spoilers for the core storyline of the game, there are some key plot points that you experience “In Dreams” that lay the foundation for Dawn of Ragnarok.

    For these reasons, and to keep the experience of both the DLC and the main game fresh for newcomers, this review will be spoiler-free apart from the necessary plot points to lay the foundation of the story.

    In Dawn of Ragnarok you play as Havi, another name for Odin, the Lord of Asgard and the mythical incarnation of Eivor. As such you can once again be the male or female version, or let the Animus decide for you. Similar to the main game, there are some plot points that strongly suggest that Havi is a male character, hearkening back to the core mythical narrative of Valhalla, although in many instances Havi is referred to as “they”. As I play with the female Eivor/Havi, it was a little odd to be referred to as “him” in one sentence, and “they” only moments later. A small detail, but one that occasionally pulled me out of the narrative.

    You won’t be pulled from the action for very long though, as Dawn of Ragnarok is also arguably one of the most difficult experiences that I have encountered in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. This is not least of all because of some impressively challenging boss rights and new Raids that make the rivers of England seem altogether peaceful. These raids are important to upgrade Havi’s new abilities, the largest change to the gameplay that we experienced in Dawn of Ragnarok.

    While combat has remained relatively unchanged from the base game, the addition of some godly powers befitting of the Lord of Asgard can completely alter how you choose to engage with enemies through stealth assassinations or overt combat. Using a newly acquired bracer, a Dwarven gift bestowed upon you shortly after arriving in Svartalfheim, you can absorb the power of fallen Muspels to absorb their Hugr. aptly named the Hugr-Rip.

    You will immediately gain The Power of Muspelheim upon being given the bracer, which will undoubtedly be one of Havi’s most useful tools in your war against the Muspels. This power gives Havi temporary immunity to lava, fire and explosions by transforming them into a Muspel; at least as far as anyone else can tell. This functions similarly to wearing your cloak in guarded settlements in the base game; you can trick enemies into thinking you are one of them so long as you don’t take any high-profile actions while in disguise. 

    While the Power of Muspelheim is arguably the most versatile ability that you can utilize, there are four other powers that you can unlock in Svartalfheim through absorbing the power of enemies, which truly make for some entertaining gameplay. These include the ability to transform into a raven to reach locations unavailable even to a master climbing Assassin, and a power that enables you to convert the dead into temporary allies. Havi can’t have all of these powers equipped at once however, so you have to choose which abilities will suit your current endeavor.

    The world of Svartalfheim is as lively and enthralling as it is beautiful to behold in its Dwarven splendor. It is an absolutely massive map, and you’ll experience lush forests and snowy mountains, to lava-filled caverns and an intricately constructed city full of mysteries and puzzles.  Dawn of Ragnarok is easily the largest DLC, in both its massive scale and the length of time it takes to complete, that we have ever experienced in an Assassin’s Creed game, and there is an impressive verticality to the landscape as well. Each of the four major regions has a number of Mysteries to get absorbed in, as well as wealth and artifacts to collect.

    The map is absolutely massive, and your quest to re-unite the Dwarven clans that were fractured in the invasion will lead you to all corners of Svartalfheim, as well as deep into the silica mines. I was taken aback at the impressive world-building that went into creating the lush over-world above deep ravines that hid mining settlements, Jotun ruins, and Dwarven shelters that the fractured clans have been forced to retreat into.

    There are the usual assortment of side quests scattered throughout the map, and Ragnarok has taken some typical storytelling tropes and turned them into entertaining quests. One of my personal favorites was the story of the Jotun who was in love with a dwarf, and shapeshifts into a wolf so as to not draw attention. Much like Eivor, Havi has a troubled past — and future — involving wolves, so it was an entertaining story to behold. The steadfastness and humor of the dwarves made for a unique atmosphere that was much different from England, and coupled with the spectacular new soundtrack, it created an experience that was as enchanting at times as it was invigorating during combat.

    There are additionally some new puzzles that you’ll have to think your way through in Dawn of Ragnarok, including some that are necessary to obtain some of the best gear in the DLC. The new light refractor puzzles, which require you to direct beams of light and bounce them off multiple spheres to open a door, often have multiple steps and require some deduction to determine how to progress them. Similarly, working your way through Jotun ruins to break a curse takes some quick thinking, and possibly the help of some special abilities.

    Between all of the activities you can partake in while in Dwarven settlements, and the expansive map dotted with activities and collectibles, it’s a very organic transition from the base game to Dawn of Ragnarok. It’s a transition that brings many new experiences, but is simultaneously one that makes you feel right at home; even though you’re quite far from it.

    Dawn of Ragnarok legitimately could have been its own game, and while it thematically still makes more sense as an expansion to Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, it was smart to allow players to enjoy it as a standalone adventure. There is easily over 30 hours of content to experience between the core storyline and the wealth of sidequests, puzzles and activities, and Ubisoft has done a fantastic job giving us yet another world to become completely lost in.


    Final Score: 9/10

    Dawn of Ragnarok sets a high bar for future expansions, not just for the Assassin’s Creed franchise but for open-world action adventure games on the whole.


    The review copy of this game was a digital code provided by the publisher.

    Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Extraction Review

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    Title: Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Extraction Released On: January 20, 2022 Genre: Cooperative FPS Reviewed On: Xbox Series X Developer: Ubisoft Montreal Publisher: Ubisoft MSRP: $39.99 USD / $49.99 CAD


    There are no shortage of cooperative PvE shooters in 2022, pitting players against zombies, aliens, mummies, and likely zombies again. It’s against this backdrop that Ubisoft has released Rainbow Six Extraction, bringing the PvP gameplay of their 2015 multiplayer hit into a completely different arena. The evolution not only completely shakes up Siege‘s player versus player structure, but adds in some new ideas to the cooperative shooter that are well adapted and create an enticing gameplay loop. In focusing on player-earned reward structure and a connection to your operators, Ubisoft Montreal has successfully adapted Rainbow Six Siege‘s gameplay into an experience that largely surpasses its cooperative brethren.

    Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Extraction is an evolution of Rainbow Six Siege’s 2018 Outbreak mode, which pits a group of operators against the Archæans , a parasitic alien invasion that has simultaneously erupted across the globe. Featuring a return of the exceptionally well-tuned first-person shooter gameplay in Siege, players work through objective-based levels to complete research and rank up their operatives. The purely competitive gameplay mode from Rainbow Six Siege has been transposed to a cooperative arena, making Extraction an impressively well-executed experience.

    It tracks that the logical group who would be called upon to handle this type of global crisis would be none other than the operators of Team Rainbow. Comprised of veteran soldiers in world’s most elite task forces, there really isn’t another fictional or factual group that is better placed to respond to the Archæan threat. Enter REACT, the Rainbow Exogenous Analysis and Containment Team, a newly formed organization spearheading the resistance effort and responsible for coordinating boots on the ground in operations against the parasite.

    The evolution from Siege to Extraction is not purely in terms of the gameplay structure, but follows thematically from its predecessor as well. Veteran operatives Thermite and Ash have stepped back from the frontlines to take on a logistical support role in operations and feature heavily in the game’s narrative and cutscenes, but a large number of operators from Siege have shown up to fight against the Archæans, specifically those whose abilities are adaptable to this new arena of combat. You’ll start with nine operators, and as you progress through Regions working on specific challenges to progress field research and your overall REACT level, you will unlock new teams of operators to take into the fray, up to a total of 18.

    OPERATOR SELECTION

    Players will enter each incursion, made up of three separate zones on a single map, in squads of up to three operators. Though the difficulty does scale to the number off players present in the mission, we strongly recommend bringing along at least one partner after our experience trying to overcome some of the objectives; more eyes can cover more corners or entries, and some of the objectives can be downright punishing when tackled alone. Beyond simply bringing more guns to the fight, each Operator comes equipped with a primary and secondary weapon, their signature ability, and two equipment slots; all of which can be modified or upgraded by progressing through the experience levels. Having additional abilities and gear on hand expands the number of ways in which the group can tackle the challenges they’ll face and improves odds of success and survival alike.

    While each operator brings their own unique skillset to the fight, for us operators like Vigil, Alibi and Pulse took front stage in Extraction, with their abilities migrating effectively from engagements with other operatives to the war against the Archæans. Not every operator’s ability makes for a surefire win in every scenario, but much like Siege each has an integral function that can mean the difference between a successful extraction and a bitter defeat. Since we opted to approach all of our engagements as stealthily as possible, utilizing operators and equipment that would allow us to spot enemies or captured allies — or distract Archæans without aggroing them — were our bread and butter.

    At launch, Rainbow Six Extraction features four regions in America containing three maps each. Players can expect a relatively static map layout each time, divided into three zones, but plenty of procedurally-generated changes that freshen up the gameplay experience in between playthroughs. Those familiar with Siege‘s destructible environments will feel right at home bursting through walls when needed or reinforcing gaps in the cover to funnel shape the battlefield to their advantage and work towards the objectives assigned to the team.

    Loading into the incursion, each zone is given a specific objective that your squad should accomplish before moving on to the next challenge; each subsequent zone throws more difficult enemies into the mix and ups the stakes. Objectives in Extraction are focused on understanding and eliminating the Archæan threat and require that operators scout the infested locales to mark Archæan nests, take out a high priority targets, recover technology, exfiltrate assets, and more. It’s entirely possible to fail objectives if you’re not paying close enough attention, but operators are also thrown a pair of lifelines to. At any point in an objective, players can exfiltrate from the prescribed location or even bypass the objective entirely to move into the next zone. The experience points are awarded to completed objectives only, and objective failure does not necessarily scrub the mission; operators can still continue into successive zones and keep pushing towards the end.

    You can choose to tackle incursions stealthily or with measured aggression, but the game is very deliberately geared towards employing with a tactical approach. Archæan nests and enemies are strewn across every zone, and once alerted to your presence the nests will continuously spawn new enemies until they are destroyed. We found that taking out as many nests as we could would dramatically increase our chances at completing an objective; the few times we ignored the premise put us back on our heels against wave upon wave of enemies with little chance to regain ground against the nests. More often than not, aggravating the Archæans too early led to a disappointing and violent end of the run.

    Losing an operator to the Archæans is much more detrimental to the REACT effort than many other games that would just bump you back to the safety of a checkpoint: in Rainbow Six Extraction, you will have to go back into the same map later and rescue your fallen operator from the Archæans if you want to use them again. While they’re MIA, all experience they’ve accrued under their individual progression ceases to contribute to the overall REACT level, but is restored when the operator returns. Moreover, an operator’s health score (out of 100) persists between missions and only heals up a few points at a time based on the experience rewarded for successful incursions.

    More so than any unlockable cosmetics, this is what we felt created the greatest enticement towards the gameplay loop. Losing an operator, especially one that was integral to your specific gameplay style, felt like a serious blow to the REACT roster. For us it didn’t matter at what point we were in a research assignment or towards unlocking something new; the priority immediately became to rescue that operative.

    One of the permeating issues behind enjoyable longevity in level-based cooperative shooters is that they need to instill an enticement; a drive for the player to want to keep coming back to replay what are essentially the same levels with some mixed up objectives. Whereas most games lean on this thirst for replayability through a battle pass or in-game unlockables, Rainbow Six Extraction mostly eschews these quests for shiny objects that pull at our lizard-brains in exchange for tugging on something else: our hearts.

    Perhaps that’s a bit of a stretch if you haven’t formed an emotional attachment to your operators, but you definitely should have if you’re not a monster. What else separates us from the Archæans if not the bonds we form with our fellow human beings, especially ones we’ve been fighting alongside for the past six years on Team Rainbow? But I digress.

    Having the core driving factor behind many of your incursions be the rescue of lost REACT operators is a compelling and motivating force. I cared a lot more about saving Alibi from the clutches of an Archæan Tree than I did about unlocking a new skin for Sledge. Not to say that the unlockable skins aren’t enticing — some of the Maelstrom Protocol skins look absolutely stellar — but I was far more motivated to save my teammates and reunite the team. While I don’t doubt that we’ll see some sort of seasonal progression in the future for Extraction, the game has an enjoyable replayability that stands on its own without needing to rely on timed-cosmetics to entice players.

    At the outset of each mission run, successful or otherwise, the measure of the attempt is rewarded to the operator(s) at hand. Experience is awarded for tactical movements (such as stealthy backstabs or weak spot kills), number of enemies dispatched, objectives completed, and a bonus percentage applied on top for a successful extraction and your overall performance. The amount of XP doled out directly fuels the healing of all injured operators on the team, but also drives progression of the returning operator’s and unlocks additional weaponry or expands their signature ability.

    For players that are looking to step up the challenge to their incursions and compete against others in a Ranked leaderboard, Extraction has the Maelstrom Protocol. These weekly events pit operators against a seemingly never-ending set of objectives with a reduced operator pool and limited resources. Achieving a rank between Bronze and Diamond rewards the player with an exclusive seasonal cosmetic for their operator, so those looking for timed rewards will find something to grind towards here. Some skins are exclusive to the store and can only be purchased with R6 credits — which you can earn through placing in Maelstrom Protocol — but the majority of operator and weapon skins can be unlocked by progressing through the maps and completing your field research, or by levelling up the specific operative.

    Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Extraction is the culmination of Rainbow Six Siege‘s highly-refined gameplay with an entirely new level of strategy added in. With no shortage of locations to infiltrate at launch, and the Maelstrom Protocol to keep more hardcore players pushing for extra rewards, there is a lot of replayability tucked away in Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Extraction. The biggest test of a PvE shooter is its ability to survive past its initial launch hype, and we think that Extraction has what it takes to go the long haul so long as we see a regular influx of new operators and locations and it doesn’t rely heavily on Maelstrom Protocol remixes in lieu of actual new content.

    Rainbow Six Extraction may not revolutioniRainbow Six Extraction may not revolutionize the cooperative first person shooter but it does present some novel ideas that create an enticing gameplay loop. Having to rescue fallen operatives from the clutches of the Archæans and completing location-specific research objectives to advance your REACT level are well fleshed-out concepts. Knowing that a single wrong move may mean the loss of your favorite operator creates a tenseness within every incursion that really makes you want to approach missions like a true agent.


    Final Score: 8/10

    Rainbow Six Extraction may not revolutionize the cooperative first person shooter but it does present some novel ideas that create an enticing gameplay loop.


    The review copy of this game was a digital code provided by the publisher.

    Rider’s Republic Review

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    Title: Rider’s Republic Released On: October 27, 2021 Genre: Sports Reviewed On: Xbox Series X Also Available On: PlayStation 5/4, PC, Xbox One, Google Stadia Developer: Ubisoft Publisher: Ubisoft MSRP: $59.99 USD / $79.99 CAD


    There is something about completely giving yourself over to nature that can really put everything else into perspective. Letting the mountains and trails take you where they will and stopping to gaze in awe at the landscapes around you, before trying to tackle them in any way possible. This is what drives many people to extreme sports, be it snowboarding, mountain biking, or streaking through the skies in wingsuits. Having stood at the top of Killington Peak in Vermont before descending the almost hour-long run on my snowboard, I’ve felt the awe and serenity of these sights, before the rush of adrenaline trying to dominate the trails.

    Rider’s Republic, Ubisoft’s spiritual successor to Steep, is everything that you could want from an extreme sports playground. You can move from event to event, racing down mountainsides, careening through forests or performing tricks on some of the wildest runs, or you can pick a direction and just lose yourself in the beautifully crafted world. Ubisoft has done an absolutely spectacular job in amalgamating seven of the most rugged national parks in America into a vast expanse of varied terrain that’s just asking to be shredded through and thoroughly explored.

    Taking some cues from The Crew, you can switch between any of the different sports, as well as to a variety of motorized or rocket-powered vehicles which make traversal an expedient delight. Because of the wealth of transportation options that are afforded to the player, getting from point A to point B is never a chore. You can fast travel to any areas that you have unlocked, but it’s much more fun to switch to your bike or snowboard, or get there the gold ol-fashioned way: careening hundreds of kilometers an hour through the air in your rocket wingsuit. It’s an exceptionally malleable system that makes the typically mundane act of traversal into an exciting explorative adventure.

    Some of the most fun that I had with Rider’s Republic was exploring the different biomes, and unlocking all of the Landmarks and Relics that are strewn throughout the world. The soundtrack features almost 100 songs from electronic, to rock and hip-hop, which make for some wicked tracks to set any mood, whether you’re shredding The Offspring or having a Zen exploration with Aphex Twin. Teton flows right into Yosemite National Park, and down into Zion Canyon almost seamlessly; it’s a meticulously crafted and beautiful map which has been given Ubisoft’s usual flair, allowing players to explore the map in 3D and even follow other players along their runs. Traversing the wife-open expanse and discovering points of interest unlocks Stars towards your overall career progression, and finding Relics unlocks some of the most unique rides that you can use. These “Funkies” can be used to compete in events with, but are typically goofier rides that offer more entertainment value than actual speed and finesse.

    Everything in Rider’s Republic is connected through Rider’s Ridge— the social hub center of the world — offering access to several types of Multiplayer events, the Shop, your weekly challenges, and the Training Center which is extremely helpful in learning new tricks. That being said, most of the things that you access on Rider’s Ridge can also be accessed through the menu, so you never have to travel back to the Ridge unless you’re looking for the hub of other players. It’s a cool place to hangout though, and you’re likely to find some other players to join you for Versus runs if you spend some time on the Ridge.

    Your main way to progress through Rider’s Republic is through competing in the plethora of different events that are scattered across the seven national parks. The more that you compete in a specific type of event, the more you’ll unlock new events in this category, allowing you to rank up a certain sport to unlock the best gear and access to the top tier Big Events, such as the renowned X Games or the Red Bull Rampage. Completing events and secondary objectives award the player with Stars, which then unlock new types of events, new gear, and reward the player with some cash in their pocket. Almost everything that you do in Rider’s Republic contributes towards your overall career though, with rewards at every threshold.

    There are multiple tiers of progression in Rider’s Republic, with each opening up new types of events, new Gear, and rewards to purchase yourself cosmetics in the Shop. Each of the different types of sports have their own path which unlocks higher quality Gear for those events, which give you greater control, speed, and air rotation. Pro and Elite level gear is absolutely necessary in the later events and when going head-to-head with other players, if you want to be able to be competitive. You can find yourself at a substantial disadvantage if you go into any event using under-leveled gear. Your gear quality alone won’t make or break an event, but combined with a healthy dose of skill it can be the difference between a few seconds on a race, or 10,000 points in a trick event.

    Rider’s Republic is a massively multiplayer game and while you’ll run into more “Ghosts” — physical manifestations of other players’ past runs — you’ll come across a fair number of other players as you traverse the massive open world. It really helps the game to feel like a vibrant and active extreme sports playground. Everywhere you look you’ll see other players completing events, followed by a line of Ghosts they are competing against. It’s something else to be in the middle of your own event or just wandering through the expansive wilderness and cross paths with an entirely different race, or have a squad of wingsuits swoop overhead as you’re careening down a mountain on a bike.

    In regular events you’ll compete against other players’ past runs, but unlike racing against ghost trails in Steep these are physical manifestations of other players that can still run you off the road or otherwise complicate your run. It’s a smart system because it gives the competitive feeling of playing against other real people without having to matchmake for every single event.

    It never felt like I was playing against AI at any point during these events, and NPC riders will only appear for certain Big Events where there are more set score tiers that you’ll have to crush. If you’ve got a team with you, you’re able to turn any Event into a Versus event with your teammates and challenge each other for the high score.

    While it can be slow, matchmaking for an actual multiplayer event has improved substantially since Rider’s Republic‘s release several weeks ago. My first week playing it could take up to 10 minutes to get into a Free-For-All match or limited time Shackdaddy playlists, but the queues this week have been substantially improved. Rider’s Republic offers a fully integrated cross-platform play, and at no point were there are issues with the multiplayer experience. Connectivity was solid right out of the gate, and I never once experienced any rubber-banding, lag or disconnects related to the online matchmaking playing on the Xbox Series X.

    Online matches offer a completely different type of challenge, and you’ll be facing off against people who have secured some of the best Elite gear which gives them an edge over players still using the lower-tiered equipment. If you’re competing in a Mass Race, arguably the most hectic and fun of the multiplayer events, you’ll have to stack up next to 63 other players and the chaotic runs that can become congested by dozens of people trying to simultaneously clear the same checkpoint. In Mass Races other players become as much of an obstacle as the course itself, but that doesn’t stop them from being the ultimate competition in Rider’s Republic. Each consists of multiple types of Events, with switch-gates transitioning you from biking to rocketwings, and back to wingsuits or skis. You have to be able to think of the fly, and react quickly to the course and other players.

    There are three different control schemes, aimed towards ease of racing, tricks, and one for Steep veterans who are looking for the same style. If you want to have the most control over your tricks without having to sacrifice any controllability in the Races, the Trick Mode uses the sticks to execute flips and spins with much more control, even though it does take a fair bit of getting used to before you’ll start to be able to feel out your tricks. You can also opt to have tricks land automatically regardless of the direction you’re facing, or select the manual mode for greater control, and additional points based on landing quality.

    Whether you’re using snowboards and skis, or the different types of bikes, you manipulate your X and Y axis as well as perform grabs in the same way. The key is to learn when to release your tricks and not to over-extend your flips and rotations, which is a problem I still haven’t mastered even after 30 hours. With the different types of control schemes in combination with the organic feeling of turning your board and tweaking tricks using the sticks, before long you start to be able to feel out your tricks. I went from being skeptical of the Trick mode and feeling like I was never going to be able to master my tricks, to it just clicking during one run. It’s a system you can grow with as a player, starting small and progressing to executing massive trick runs once you’ve got a feel for rotations and landing.

    If you’re looking to add some grind to your grind, there are weekly challenges that players can participate in hosted by the Shackdaddy Bandits, which reward you with a handful of Stars or some unique cosmetics. You have to purchase these challenges though, so it’s a trade-off whether you want to spend your money on these challenges or save up for that fancy skin in the Shop. One of the only real issues that I had with the gameplay loop was that it constantly felt like I needed more money. Even playing through all the different events, completing Sponsor contracts, and competing in multiplayer matches left me feeling like I never had enough money to do everything I wanted to. This is where Rider’s Republic‘s “grind” comes into play, and you’ll have to progress through contracts and continue to rank up your Stars and Event-specific progression to secure the required funds.

    Sponsors are awarded by progressing through the game, and you can equip up to three sponsors at a time who will reward you for completing events and specific challenges in their sport(s) of choice, in addition to daily rewards for completing up to 9 contracts. This is the best way to earn some cash passively while you’re playing through events, and ranking up each Sponsor will unlock special gear and cosmetics for your rider.

    Since most of the good skins in the Shop cost between $15,000 to $30000, it can feel like quite the grind to amass that much currency just to drop it on a new snowsuit, although it’s always tempting to do just that. The Rider’s Republic Shop is absolutely jam-packed with cosmetics and emotes, but thankfully a large number of these can be purchased with the in-game currency that you get from reaching new Star levels or completing certain events and contracts. The downside of this is that there isn’t really a way to grind out loads of in-game dollars quickly; you simply have to play the game, gather Stars, and progress through daily Sponsor contracts and multiplayer events.

    Rider’s Republic should be on the top of the list for anyone looking for the most engaging extreme sports game on the slopes. The versatility of the gameplay, the free-form approach to progression and exploration, and the absolute thrill of executing a perfect run or that trick you’ve been trying to master combine to make it the single best extreme sports game I’ve ever played. With new weekly challenges and different types of Limited time playlists with unique runs, I’ll be spending a lot of time in the Republic for the foreseeable future.

    Whether you’re itching for some next-level Steep, or looking to relive the days of SSX, there isn’t another extreme sports game out there that compares to the wealth of content and replayability contained within Rider’s Republic. It’s an experience that will have players constantly learning, evolving, and taking their runs to the next level as they comb every nook and cranny of the seven National Parks to become the best all-around rider on the Ridge.   


    Final Score: 9/10

    The versatility of gameplay, free-form approach to progression and exploration, and the absolute thrill of a perfect fun make Rider’s Republic everything you could ask for from an extreme sports playground.

    The review copy of this game was a digital code provided by the publisher.

    Far Cry 6 Review

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    Title: Far Cry 6 Released On: October 6, 2021 Genre: Action-Adventure Reviewed On: Xbox Series X Also Available On: PlayStation 5/4, PC, Xbox One, Google Stadia Developer: Ubisoft Toronto Publisher: Ubisoft MSRP: $59.99 USD / $79.99 CAD


    You know what you’re going to get with a Far Cry game. Since 2012 the series has followed a very similar gameplay schematic, with a narrative that puts you at the center of solving an entire region’s problems; stealthing or blasting your way through various Outposts to liberate the region – all egged on by an evil yet charismatic warlord. It’s a gameplay loop that, while comfortable in its 9th iteration, has seen numerous changes and evolutions to this structure that have tweaked how the player engages with the world, but have not substantially overhauled any of the core mechanics that make the series what it is.

    Following in that vein, Far Cry 6 is still very much Far Cry down to its bones, but it continues to evolve from its predecessors in some substantive ways that have streamlined many of the facets we’ve seen in previous entries. The narrative likewise tugs on some of the same threads, but through putting the player into some more realistic and uncomfortable situations it manages to ground Far Cry 6‘s story in a way that previous entries haven’t quite reached. Bolstered by the power of the new generation of consoles and graphics cards, it is also the best looking iteration that we have seen and Yara is a strikingly beautiful tropical environment. The culmination of these improvements is a story that you want to see through to the end, set in a world that begs to be explored, and carried by the refined over-the-top gameplay that is the best we’ve seen in the series.

    Far Cry 6 Execution

    Far Cry 6 sees the player take control of Dani Rojas, an unlikely rebel attempting to flee the island nation of Yara, which has fallen under the control of brutal dictator Anton Castillo, played by the Giancarlo Esposito. After a foiled escape attempt, Dani finds himself in the company of the Libertad Guerillas; a clandestine force aimed at uniting the rebels across the Yaran provinces in a revolution against the regime. It doesn’t take much to convince Dani to join the rebellion, and not long after the introduction you’re a full-fledged guerilla, taking the fight right to the military to take back control of the country. Yara may be a fictional country, but it has been created with Cuban roots, and it’s impossible not to see that permeating through your experience from the cultural side activities to the music that breathes atmosphere into the experience.

    It’s a narrative like this that the series has been missing; coupling a revolutionary story alongside the series quintessential gameplay that has always been about taking back a country for its people. While Far Cry has never shied away from telling an impactful story, Far Cry 6 is a much more hard-hitting and brutal narrative. Even though the story is rooted in the fictional country of Yara, it’s impossible to not draw parallels to the brutal and oppressive regimes that existed, and still exist, in Latin America. There are not-so-subtle references to dictators such as Augusto Pinochet, as well as to guerilla leaders who fought back against them, embodied by characters like Juan Cortez and El Tigre.

    Far Cry 6 Juan Cortez

    What makes Far Cry‘s gameplay so much more fulfilling in Yara is that Ubisoft makes the player feel invested in the plight of the Yarans and the Libertad guerillas right from the very beginning. Far Cry 6 may be a story about revolution, but what it really tells is a narrative about loss. Anton Castillo and his FND (Fuerzas Nacionales de Defensa, the National Defense Force) came to power promising a New Yara for its citizens, and prosperity that the island nation had never seen before. Instead, he took everything away from the people of Yara and you can feel the suffering through every interaction you have. It turns Dani, and ultimately the player, from a would-be escapee into a protagonist that is driven to retake his home.

    And it’s hard not to get wrapped up in the fervor of the revolution yourself.

    Far Cry 6 Anton Castillo

    What Far Cry 6‘s evolution shows more than anything is that Ubisoft has paid attention to what players want and expect from the franchise, and even though they may be playing it safe by not tweaking too much under the hood or changing this formula, it’s a refinement of what makes the game so much fun. Systematically moving through the map and turning all of the red checkpoints and outposts to blue guerilla bases is an extremely satisfying gameplay loop, especially when coupled with Far Cry’s malleable gameplay approach, and Yara is the most engaging playground of death that we’ve experienced yet.

    Far Cry simply wouldn’t be Far Cry without a massive map to explore full of Outposts to capture and collectibles to obtain. Not only does Far Cry 6 have the largest map in the series to date, but it also feels the most varied and enticing to explore. The vast expanse of Yara never feels empty, and that’s not simply because of how much there is to do in the game; each environment and set piece feels much more unique than in past games, and you can tell that Ubisoft Toronto went to serious lengths to ensure that each province, outpost, and locale feels genuinely different.

    Far Cry 6 Wingsuit

    The rolling farmlands of Madrugada, the tropical swamps and forests of Valle de Oro, and the mountainous region of El Este each feel unique and offer a wide variety of locales to explore that each feel organic. I never found myself coming across repeated set-pieces apart from where it made logical sense — such as similarly designed checkpoints — and the environment itself made the map worthwhile to explore, in addition to the fact that there are collectibles everywhere.

    Outposts are also much more organically implemented into the actual infrastructure of the region than in past games, made up of factories, tobacco fields, or military installations. Taking these over didn’t just feel like you were claiming a new base, but like you were actually freeing Yarans from the grip of the FND and securing the resources or logistical operations for the guerillas. And it’s not just Outposts that you’ll be taking over: there are military checkpoints to seize to make your travel earlier and anti-aircraft installations to destroy to allow for ease of flight, with each turning from red to blue to mark that they have been wrested from Castillo’s control.

    Far Cry 6 Oil Platform

    In Far Cry 6 you are also free to explore any Region you want in any order, and even though there are higher difficulty areas the game doesn’t go to lengths to keep you out of these areas; you’ll simply encounter marginally more powerful enemies. Each of the three main provinces has its own difficulty levels, so you could simultaneously work your way through all three areas assisting each of the factions, or carve your way through the map one province at a time. I enjoyed being able to explore the majority of the map at my leisure without feeling like certain areas were cordoned off to me. You can even walk right into the Lion’s Den, the capitol city of Esperanza, although I’d keep your weapon sheathed.

    So long as you keep your weapon holstered as you’re travelling around, you won’t immediately aggro enemies as was the case in previous games. This allows you to move through enemy controlled areas — although not through hostile shoot-on-sight territory — without drawing attention to yourself. You can even drive right through an enemy checkpoint, so long as you’re not speeding, without alerting the guards. There is also a chance that an enemy NPC may be sympathetic to Libertad, indicated with an exclamation mark over their head, which means that you can approach and bribe them for information on an enemy encampment or cache. The sum of all of these little gameplay facets creates a much more organic feeling experience, rather than just having every single enemy open fire as soon as you’re within their sights. It also makes it easier to get the drop on them in some cases, and save civilians from their oppressive actions.

    Far Cry 6 Bury the Hatchet

    Perhaps the largest change to the series has been how Far Cry 6 handles gear and weapons, which have been completely overhauled in some substantial ways. Gone is the skill tree, with many of the previously unlockable upgrades — such as drop and chain assassinations, or the grappling hook — having been implemented into the core game mechanics. Other improvements are modified through your choice of weapon attachments and modifications, which have the usual assortment of increased reload speeds, damage, or various ammo types.

    For players looking for some of the more unique weapons from the series, Resolver Weapons are Far Cry 6‘s answer to the experimental arsenal that we played around with in New Dawn, taking that destructive creativity to new heights. These weapons must be unlocked through finding special depleted uranium caches, and make for the most chaotic and entertaining weaponry to date. In addition to the game’s signature Tostador, a multi-purpose flamethrower, there is a handheld mortar that shoots fireworks, an EMP cannon, an explosive sniper rifle, and even a rifle that can shoot through walls. That’s not even half of the Resolver arsenal. Suffice it to say, I always carry at least one of these on me.

    Far Cry 6 Tobacco Field

    Crafting has changed many times throughout the series, from using animal skins to craft holsters and wallets, to collecting components to build homebrewed weaponry, and this has also been tweaked in Yara. The Workbench allows you to modify weapon attachments and mods, but every weapon and piece of gear in the game — apart from Resolver weapons — can be purchased from a vendor or found in chests, including a massive amount of unique weapons with a signature style and some preset modifications.

    Your gear similarly determines the passive bonuses that you have, and each piece of gear comes with a modifier. These can be anything from improving your defense against various types of damage, increasing your ammo reserves, reducing noise, and a number of other situational effects. Each set of five gear pieces is attuned to a different playstyle, but you’re free to mix and match gear that you find to suit your own preferences. I had to get out of the habit of always wanting to have an entire set equipped, because often my perfect combination involved a mix-and-matched set.

    Far Cry 6 Arsenal

    There is a wealth of quality-of-life improvements that allow the player to keep the pace of the gameplay up. Being able to swap out to any of your owned weaponry may not be entirely realistic, but it’s extremely useful for the plethora of different situations you’ll find yourself embroiled in that require a different loadout. Other aspects, like being able to call your Ride to your location seem like minor details, but really improve the overall flow of the game. In addition to being able to summon land, air and sea vehicles at Pickup Points like in Far Cry 5 and New Dawn, Dani will collect several unique Rides that can be summoned right to the player and upgraded similarly to your weapons at a Workbench.

    The other big gameplay change comes in the form of the Supremo: a modifiable backpack arsenal crafted for you by the man who wrote the book on being a guerilla, Juan Cortez. There are seven Supremos in total, each packed with an ability that can turn the tide on any engagement. Assault Supremos allows you to reign down destruction on your adversaries, while stealth and saboteur models can take out security systems or turn enemies against one another.

    Far Cry 6 Airplane

    With the evolution of the Far Cry series, the question has often been asked if there is such thing as too much: too many collectibles, too large of a map, and too many distractions that ultimately pull the player away from the main campaign objectives. There is no argument that in Yara’s massive countryside you’ll run across a multitude of attention-grabbing distractions, they feel much more organically-implemented into the experience and at no point was it overwhelming or too distracting.

    Any of the important collectibles such as new weapons, gear pieces, or items to decorate the dashboard of your Ride are marked on the map as crates which makes them easy to see and detour to grab on your way to your main objectives. Resources, on the other hand, aren’t marked on the map but can be found everywhere such that you never really have to worry about finding them. Folk who are looking for a more invigorating treasure hunt won’t be disappointed though; most of the best collectibles in Far Cry 6 are easily obtainable and there are special Treasure Hunts or Criptograma Chests that require a little more sleuthing to unlock and offer some of the games’ best tools.

    Far Cry 6 Unique Gun

    As you work your way through each of the provinces and take back locations for the guerilla resistances you’ll be able to upgrade the three different Guerilla Camps to provide new opportunities and resources that will assist you in your endeavors. For example, choosing to build a Guerilla Garrison will unlock laptops that can be found near enemy outposts, and using one of these computers will tag security systems and high-value targets. Choosing the Hideout Network will give access to hidden bases scattered throughout the map, and upgrading any of these facilities will increase the bonuses they provide.

    Liberating checkpoints, completing Yaran stories — which are some of Far Cry 6’s side quests — and interacting with some of the random events that you come across actually ties into your overall resistance against the Castillo Regime through providing intel on military installations or supply drops and additional recruits to send on guerilla runs. Saving hostages, destroying convoys and completing Yaran stories will net you some Los Banditos recruits, who can be used to procure special resources or weapons. It’s these types of things that help to tie Far Cry 6’s various systems and activities together, really making it feel like each improvement is helping the overall resistance to Castillo’s reign. Not only can you see these changes on the map, but they impact how you’ll approach situations.

    Far Cry 6 Baseball Field

    You won’t be travelling alone either. One of the other systems that has been carried forward in Far Cry 6 but tweaked are the Guns For Hire, which are now exclusively Fangs For Hire. You’ll get your first recruit, a stylish crocodile named Guapo, fairly early into the campaign, with the other Amigos unlocked through various missions and even a special Treasure Hunt. Each Amigo has a small upgrade path which you can progress through simply by using that compadre, and they make for the best travelling companions out there. I’m just disappointed there isn’t a doggy-seat for Chorizo to ride along with me in.

    Following Ubisoft’s trend towards making their games playable for everyone, there are a ton of accessibility and gameplay options that overhaul how the user interface or some of the key systems function. In addition to the more common accessibility options like colourblind mode or closed captioning, there is an entire menu broken up into six parts that allow for alterations to visual, audio, motor, cognitive, motion and colour accessibility. It’s quite an in-depth menu, and the ability to toggle presets or individual options for each of the categories will be a boon to those wanting to experience the game in a way that is accessible to them.

    Far Cry 6 Chorizo

    Far Cry 6 functions very smoothly and for the most part I didn’t encounter any serious bugs, but there were a couple issues that popped up over the course of my playthrough, which required me to reload a checkpoint or relaunch the game. The AI typically functions pretty well, but there can be some irksome instances such as when you are required to follow someone for a mission but they insist on running in circles and attracting every single bullet. In this particular example, the mission required them to lead me to an exit; the injured guerilla I’d been carrying on my back ended up dying, several times, and required a mission reload to kick the proper path back in.

    In addition to this, I also encountered a quest bug that also required a checkpoint load. One mission where I had to speak with a preacher to progress a mission ended up with me stuck without a way to progress to the next checkpoint, requiring another reloaded autosave. By far the most annoying, and somewhat persistent issue, was a pop-up warning me that quitting to Main Menu would lose any unsaved progress, even though I had not tried to quit. This just popped up in the middle of my gameplay, and then didn’t give me the option to select “No” so ultimately I had to quit to the menu, and get booted back to a previous autosave.

    Far Cry 6 Lieutenant Jiminez

    Far Cry 6‘s revolutionary narrative doesn’t represent a revolution in its gameplay, it’s still the most entertaining and compelling game in the series. The improvements to the structure, gameplay loops, the addition of Revolver weapons and the Supremo all create a non-stop action-packed thrill ride of mayhem. Starting a revolution and taking back the nation of Yara from the Castillo Regime is the perfect setting for the series, and the gameplay’s tie-ins with the storyline serve to elevate both. And, while I’ve always enjoyed the Far Cry narrative, Giancarlo Esposito’s portrayal of Anton Castillo serves as another highpoint for the series as he helped to carry a strikingly powerful story of loss, revolution, and redemption.

    Far Cry 6 represents a truly refined Far Cry experience. The new gameplay doesn’t break the mold or push the envelope in any substantial way, but it has refined the series’ systems reaching back to Far Cry 3 to present an exceptionally malleable yet streamlined experience. While it’s unlikely to attract many newcomers to the series, fans of both the series and first-person action adventure games will find a ton of substance here to enjoy.


    Final Score: 9.5/10

    While Far Cry 6‘s revolutionary narrative doesn’t represent a revolution in its gameplay, it’s still the most entertaining and compelling game in the series.

    The review copy of this game was a digital code provided by the publisher.

    Immortals Fenyx Rising Review

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    Title: Immortals Fenyx Rising Released On: December 3, 2020 Genre: Action-Adventure Reviewed On: Xbox Series X Also Available On: PlayStation 5/4, PC, Google Stadia, Xbox One Developer: Ubisoft Quebec Publisher: Ubisoft MSRP: $59.99 USD / $79.99 CAD


    Greek mythology is filled with stories of ordinary people who find themselves unexpectedly thrust towards destiny by the will of a God, so it fits perfectly that when the Gods needed saving that a lone, shipwrecked individual would come to their aid. Immortals Fenyx Rising conceptually follows in this rich tradition of Homerian Greek epics, with our protagonist Fenyx taking on larger than life puzzles and battling fantastical beasts in his quest to save his brother and reunite the Greek pantheon. Offering a more organic progression system that entices players to engage more deeply with the game, Ubisoft Quebec has created a world that rewards players for exploration.

    Narratively, Immortals Fenyx Rising takes all of its cues from the classical Comedies, and its delightful blend of action, exploration, and puzzle-solving seamlessly mesh together through a satirical tongue-in-cheek adventure highlighting the true drama of the Greek pantheon. With a very accessible combat system and a genuinely engaging and complex gauntlet of problem solving, Immortals has a little something for everyone and is sure to delight gamers across the spectrum. It’s not often that a developer striking out on a new path achieves success on the first try, but Ubisoft Quebec has used their development strengths as a foundation for a brand new epic.

    Immortals Fenyx Rising Map

    I want to begin by saying that people would be remiss to simply think of Immortals as a Zelda-like game, as has oft been the comparison since we first saw gameplay revealed. While there are assuredly some similarities between the puzzle-solving action-adventure games, Immortals stands on its own as a worthwhile and unique addition to the genre, building from the lessons of the developer while taking influence from outside sources. There are not near enough open-world adventures that challenge the player to engage thoughtfully with logic puzzles, and Fenyx Rising has filled that gap superbly with a colourfully captivating world.

    Immortals Fenyx Rising manages to expertly balance its combat and puzzling through an immersive and engaging world, one that draws the player in and entices them to explore every inch. Everything that you accomplish in Immortals has some sort of reward tied to it. Treasure chests and upgrade materials are locked behind environmental logic puzzles that make every accomplishment feel like you’ve really worked to earn it. While you could easily lose yourself in the amount of activities to engage with in the open-world, the gameplay is superbly tied together through one of Ubisoft’s most unique and compelling narratives to date.

    Immortals Fenyx Rising recounts the story of Fenyx, a soldier shipwrecked into destiny alongside the greatest heroes of Greek myth. Unbeknownst to our protagonist, the story is narrated by Prometheus to Zeus, conveniently while he is still chained to the rock where the God of Lightning put him centuries earlier. The last remaining Titan, Typhon, has imprisoned the Gods and corrupted the greatest Heroes of antiquity, and their fate rests on the shoulders of our hapless would-be hero. It’s the quintessential unexpected hero trope, but one that’s rooted in the rich depth of Greek mythology, and then completely reimaged through a satirical lens.

    The story is downright hilarious, almost as if it was written by one of the great Comedians themselves, and is one of the game’s strongest features. Immortals is very aware of the ridiculousness of many aspects of Greek mythology, and instead of leaning into the seriousness of classical myths, it goes to lengths to point out their foibles. Commentary on Zeus’ numerous affairs and countless children — in fact it was 54 — alongside comedic references surrounding each of the Gods’ many, many faults and constant squabbles. In addition to a story that is riddled with satirical takes on the actions of the Gods — including Zeus’ constant quips alongside Prometheus’ narration — Fenyx is a generally aloof and self-aware protagonist. He’s constantly questioning the logic, or lack thereof, of the actions of the Gods around him, and immediately embroils himself in the most whimsical of tasks without any prompting.

    Immortals Fenyx Rising Good Deeds

    The world of Immortals Fenyx Rising is a massive one, separated into multiple regions where the Gods have been cursed and imprisoned by Typhon. Each sprawling region feels representative of the God that lives there; Aphrodite’s Valley is full of lush greenery and glistening streams, whereas Ares’ region is comprised of desolate rocky desert and crumbling towers. It’s an absolutely beautiful and captivating world to explore, and one made even more-so by the allure of treasure scattered about, and the ease afforded to Fenyx from his Wings. The colourful and watercolour painting-like art style works exceedingly well, providing a depth of detail while maintaining a cartoonish charm.

    It’s also a world where discovery lies around every cliff-edge. You can scout your surroundings from any area using Fenyx’s Far Sight, which will vibrate and highlight points of interest on your map and compass. There are special Fresco and Constellation puzzles to complete, Epic Chests to unlock, Vaults to work your way through, and much more. Nothing in Immortals is “simply” a collectible; every single activity, icon or chest will bestow upon Fenyx a unique piece of equipment or a crafting material that is integral for improving the protagonist’s core stats or upgrading their abilities. It’s the type of system that is a completionist’s dream, because it not only entices the player with the wealth of icons to check off, but forces them to work through puzzles to achieve each goal.

    Immortals Fenyx Rising War's Den

    Immortals Fenyx Rising is assuredly a puzzle-heavy game, but the environmental problem-solving feels very organic to the experience, and not forced. Many of the puzzles exist throughout the world simply to guard access to an Epic Chest or upgrade materials, whereas others are far more intricate layered problems which require the player to solve a successive number of shorter puzzles to complete a grand one. There are a number of different types of problems to solve, but the majority of the puzzles involve a combination of exploration and logic; finding the specific environmental cue and determining how it interacts with the overarching puzzle.

    In addition to these open-world puzzles, there are a wealth of subterranean levels called Vaults of Tartarus that can be found in each region, which are essentially puzzle-dungeons. These Vaults range in difficulty level but have a core focus on environmental puzzle-solving, with many of them being comprised of a combination of traversal challenges alongside logic puzzles, making for an often complicated but thoughtful dungeon. They are the types of puzzles that require the player to step back and look at the whole picture, before having that “A-Ha!” moment where the answer makes itself clear.

    Immortals Fenyx Rising Puzzle

    One of my favorite aspects of Immortals Fenyx Rising has been Ubisoft Quebec’s willingness to shirk more traditional progression and upgrade systems that we find in open-world adventure games, in exchange for systems that actively promote exploration and organic gameplay. You don’t level up in Immortals, but rather you advance your character by completing any of the world activities, as they all reward Fenyx with different types of upgrade materials.

    Coins of Charon from completing Constellations or Harp challenges — which are some of my favorite puzzles — are used to invest into your skill tree or buy new Godly Powers, whereas opening chests and defeating enemies rewards you with shards to upgrade your equipment. Lastly, Vaults of Tartarus and Ambrosia shards are used to upgrade your stamina and health respectively. Each world activity or puzzle ties directly in with the advancement of Fenyx, tying progression in through exploration in a way that I found to be both enticing and rewarding.

    Immortals Fenyx Rising Zeus Lightning

    Gamers familiar to Ubisoft titles will assuredly find some of those characteristic elements in Immortals that help to entice the player to explore the entirety of the world. Climbing a tower to scout out new locations or treasures in a region, or the brief moment of slowed-down time when Fenyx executes a perfectly timed dodge. While there are certainly some of these Ubi-elements that permeate through the game, Immortals Fenyx Rising feels like a completely new experience, and new direction for the developer while still playing to their strengths.

    While there is a logical way to work your way through each Region, progression in Immortals is largely left up to the player, affording them the ability to tackle any area and freely bounce between the core questline and the plethora of world activities and treasure chests that are scattered throughout the map. It’s a game where exploration is at the forefront, as some quests can’t be discovered through Far Sight, requiring the player to pass within proximity of them to cue their dialogue. There are barriers to this freedom in the form of enemies that will annihilate an underpowered Fenyx, or puzzles that you may not be able to solve without a firmer grasp of your powers, but you are still free to engage with them in any order you’d like. As you progress through the game these types of barriers become less restrictive as Fenyx becomes more powerful — and as your puzzle-solving prowess improves — but it created a welcome and less directed adventure.

    Immortals Fenyx Rising Map

    Combat in Immortals Fenyx Rising isn’t exceptionally unique but is well executed and feels very smooth, with the relatively simple mechanics bolstered by a number of Godly Powers that Fenyx will gain throughout their adventure. Alternating between light and heavy attacks causes Fenyx to switch between his sword and axe — a neat stylistic and mechanical feature — in addition to a bow for ranged attacks. Focusing on these three weapon archetypes comprises the core combat system, supplemented with the handful of abilities you’ll gain that allow you to better crowd-control larger groups and deal out integral stun damage.

    You’ll square off against a number of enemies from classical myth, which are handily colour-coded to signify their difficulty. Unlike the puzzles, there is no great strategy for combat so long as you pay attention to your stamina and make good use of heavy attacks and powers to stun your foes. Combat can be challenging at points, but enemies tended to have relatively straight-forward strategies to defeat them. While fights could feel a little repetitive the further you push into the game, at no point did it ever become tedious or tiresome. Smart use of Godly Powers like Herakles’ Strength and your trusty phoenix Phosphor become especially critical later on, but also helped to keep combat feeling fresh.

    Both the puzzle-solving and the combat culminate in the Vaults of the Gods, which are like expanded Vaults of Tartarus that include difficult battles and take a good amount of problem-solving to overcome. While never tedious, they are assuredly the gauntlets of logic in Immortals Fenyx Rising. Moving through each Vault requires solving a multitude of environmental puzzles which all lead to a grand solution, and a hefty boss battle. In addition to being some of the most complex levels in the game, they also feature some of the more challenging fights.

    Immortals Fenyx Rising Boss Battle

    Every single piece of armour or weaponry in Immortals in a unique and Legendary piece, which makes treasure-hunting that much more enticing. Ubisoft Quebec has opted for a completely different Gear system in Fenyx Rising, allowing players to focus on equipment that they want to wear, versus feeling like they need to equip the “best” items. If you really want to use a specific piece of equipment because of its perk, but you’re attached to a certain cosmetic, you can re-skin any item in the game to look like another that you’ve obtained.

    Hunting down all of the weapon and armour chests in Immortals was easily one of my favorite things to do, not just because it afforded me an opportunity to delve deeper into the world and solve more environment puzzles, but because you knew that every item you got would be epic. There is a tense excitement every time Fenyx opens a chest, which is multiplied because the character has a number of excited chest-opening rituals, such as drumming on the top of giving it a celebratory elbow-drop. You will find re-skins of equipment that you already have the further you progress, but they were varied enough that I welcomed the new customization options.

    Immortals Fenyx Rising Chest

    In addition to offering a more nuanced progression system, Immortals has also shirked the more traditional upgrade systems in exchange for one that felt like it was meant to expand player freedom. Instead of upgrading each piece of equipment individually, the player can instead upgrade the class of weapon or armour that they wish to improve, which improves all items within that type. Immortals is an action-adventure game at its core, so players don’t have to worry about grinding out levels or focusing on upgrading a gear-set, but can organically work their way through the game swapping out pieces of equipment as they see fit. You’ll be upgrading both your equipment as well as unlocking new skills and Godly powers at the Hall of the Gods, your one-stop-Hermes-shop for everything that Fenyx needs to save the pantheon.

    There are additionally two types of task-oriented quests that Hermes has posted in the Hall of the Gods which offer enticing rewards for players. There are Heroic Tasks which challenge you to complete world objectives and reward Fenyx with upgrade materials and new equipment, as well as timed Live Tasks which give the player an opportunity to earn Elektrum, a premium currency that can be used at Hermes’ shop of rotating premium Store stock. It’s the same type of system we’ve seen in previous Assassin’s Creed games, which affords players a way to earn premium items from the cosmetic Store without paying for them.

    Immortals Fenyx Rising Phoenix

    Immortals Fenyx Rising is assuredly a deeply engaging game that challenges players to take a more thoughtful approach to their dungeon-crawling. That being said, as you progress through the lengthy game and become comfortable with the types of puzzles that inhabit the world, they will lose some of the initial difficulty that they held, much in the same way that the combat will become much easier as you upgrade Fenyx’s overall strength and Godly Powers.

    This did definitely mean that Immortals presented less of a challenge the further I pushed into the game, apart from the occasional spikes of difficulty found in Vault-puzzles or unique enemy fights, but I at no point found that the gameplay stagnated substantially. There is so much driving the player forward, both in terms of narrative and exploratory discovery, and its done with such charm that the enjoyment lasts well into 30+ hours of gameplay.

    Immortals Fenyx Rising Ares

    It’s the type of progression that will undoubtedly push many gamers like myself to go for a full 100% completion, because of how well each of the systems complement one another. The colourful and richly detailed world begs to be explored, leading the player towards chests requiring puzzle solutions and combat to unlock, with rewards that allow you to engage with new areas. It’s a gameplay loop that feels consistently engaging and never tiresome, since activities are both rewarding unto themselves, and part of a greater driving force.

    While the this loop can become a little repetitive towards the end of the experience, Immortals Fenyx Rising works on every level. It’s an absolutely captivating world full of delightful characters that pushes the player forward on an adventure of discovery and triumph that feels consistently rewarding. Exploration, combat, and puzzle-solving all function in tandem, held together by Ubisoft’s funniest narrative to date. It’s a thoroughly entertaining game from beginning to end, and one that I would recommend wholly to people looking for a fun, thoughtful adventure.


    Final Score: 9/10

    Immortals Fenyx Rising works on every level, with a colourfully engaging world urging the player forward through an enticing progression and reward system.

    The review copy of this game was a digital code provided by the publisher.

    Unturned Review

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    Title: Unturned Released On: November 12, 2020 Genre: Survival Reviewed On: Xbox One X Also Available On: PlayStation 4, PC Developer: Smartly Dressed Games Publisher: 505 Games MSRP: $24.99 USD / $33.49 CAD


    Six years after its initial release, blocky zombie survival game Unturned has shambled its way onto Xbox One and PlayStation 4. While the game doesn’t present any exceptionally unique takes on the open-world survival or base-building genres, there is a charm to the simple design that is immediately apparent, and a depth of gameplay that was wholly unexpected by this reviewer. While it may combine many elements that we’ve seen before, Unturned is sure to scratch that itch for a new survival experience on consoles.

    Unturned is still a free-to-play game on Steam, but players will have to fork over $25 to play the console port of the game, which is arguably a fair price for the depth of the title. Unturned began its life as a Roblox game called Deadzone, which was essentially a Blox-version of DayZ, with some base-building elements, assuming that you can survive long enough to craft a base. It was released initially on Steam Greenlight in 2014 by one-man Canadian developer Nelson Sexton, who started his work on the title when he was only 16.

    Unturned follows the general formula for the open-world zombie survival games we’ve seen in the past generation, with a blocky twist. You’re dropped into a location with only the clothing on your back, and you must scavenge for supplies in infested areas so that you can craft the necessary items, keep yourself alive, and eventually (hopefully) craft a base to keep you safe from the shambling hordes. You can venture into one of the eight maps solo, or join the online community for up to 24 player games if you’re feeling social.

    One of my favorite aspects of Unturned are the eight decently sized maps that take you across the world, including to Prince Edward Island, a little province off the Eastern coast of Canada. The diversity of the different biomes is fun to play through, and work has been done to bring these regions to life with essential landmarks and topography. After spending some time in each map you will start to notice a handful of similarities between some of the structures and layouts, but each map has unique locations that are as fun to explore as they are useful. There is an exceptional amount of charm to each map, and I had a lot of fun exploring every area.

    While I was admittedly skeptical of the Roblox-esque graphics and that perception that this was a “kid’s game”, those sentiments immediately faded away. Even though Unturned may have a more colourful, Minecraftian veneer to it, it’s easily as punishing as any other zombie survival game. I died the first half-dozen times because even armed with a solid melee weapon it can take a good few strikes to the head to take down the blocky-zombies, and they don’t stagger easily. If you’re playing solo and happen to get swarmed, it’s pretty much a death sentence without high-powered weaponry.

    Apart from not being an easy game, the Unturned console port can be a little frustrating to control at points. The context sensitive actions, such as picking items up, can be off from where the item is, making grabbing weapons in a hurry an issue. Occasionally items will be stuck halfway through a surface and impossible to grab. There are a handful of small bugs like this that permeate through much of the game, and even though they’re slightly annoying nothing severely detracted from my experience, apart from having to constantly reset the tutorial early on because it kept freezing.

    As well as scavenging for crafting supplies and weapons, you have to find food and water to keep your health up. When you take damage your health depletes substantially, and it will only automatically heal if your hunger and thirst levels are above 80%. If you’re having trouble finding food you can even find crop seeds in certain areas and plant them to grow your own, which was a pretty neat idea especially if you were planning to shelter in place. Items in Unturned spawn randomly but after often contextual to their location, so while you’ll have to spend a bit of time looking around you can usually expect food in restaurants, or guns at the police station for example.

    Shelters are relatively easy to craft in Unturned, that is if you can find yourself a bladed weapon or saw to chop trees down with. Personally I was only ever able to make rudimentary shelters before I opted to explore the rest of the map, since sheltering in place as a solo player did not provide as many advantages as it does when playing online. Once I ventured into the online, I never ended up needing a shelter to defend against players, because all of the players I ran into were friendly and just wanted to team up against the horde. Maybe that’s because we were on the Canada map.

    There are some different features in Unturned that aren’t as characteristic of other open-world survival games, such as each character having a special Class that provides them will unique skills. When you are in-game, you’ll gain experience points for killing zombies — or other players — which can immediately be allotted into your skills, giving you additional damage or survivability. At the main menu, you can also outfit your characters — of which you have four — with your own unique style. Once the update has been added for consoles, players will be additionally be able to complete Daily Rewards to gain currency to purchase new weapon and body skins, but the feature has yet to be implemented.

    If you’re playing a custom game, you can modify almost all of the base spawn rates, damages, and a plethora of other factors when you are setting up your world, allowing you to tweak various settings to create your preferred survival experience. While it’s not a feature that I played around with too much, just so that I could experience the proper resource allocation and difficulty as intended, it’s an extremely useful feature for setting up custom worlds.

    Unturned is a neat take on the open-world zombie survival game, and with a dedicated group of friends I have no doubt the game would shine even brighter. Playing solo or with random players on the official servers was still a lot of fun, but just lacked that personal attachment that you would get through a sustained effort to build up on a single server, similar to a game like Rust or Ark. I found the online community to be a rather inviting one, as opposed to the aforementioned games where running into a random player often meant swift and immediate death.

    While the game is definitely still a little rough around the edges on console, I had a colourful and immersive experience that completely upended my initial skepticism around the graphical style. I can comfortably recommend Unturned to anyone looking to scratch that open-world survival itch in 2020, especially if you can round up a few other survivors to join in the fun. With a wealth of weapons to experiment with and locations to explore and make your own, turning the world into a blocky zombie playground still feels good even after 6 years.


    Final Score: 7/10

    Unturned is a fun, blocky take on the open-world zombie survival genre, but doesn’t offer anything substantially new for its console port.

    The review copy of this game was a digital code provided by the publisher.

    Oneechanbara Origin Review

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    Title: Oneechanbara Origin Released On: October 14, 2020  Genre: Action, Hack n’ Slash Reviewed On: PlayStation 4 Pro Also Available On: PC Developer: Tamsoft Publisher: D3 Publisher MSRP: $59.99 USD / $79.99 CAD


    2020 is a year of revivals. So what better time to release Oneechanbara Origin, a remaster of the origins of the fan service hack n’ slash zombie slaying game. Originally released as part of D3’s Simple Series in 2004 in Japan, this marks the first time that players in North America have been able to experience the original two games. The remaster features a brand new art-style, a new playable character, and a re-interpretation of the original story, which combines the first two games into a redesigned adventure.

    Self-described as “high-speed bloody sword-fighting action”, Oneechanbara Origin certainly delivers in that respect, but even with the work that has been done to remaster the game it ultimately ends up feeling like a classic arcade hack n’ slash, which isn’t inherently bad but is definitely a double-edged sword. While it allows Oneechanbara to retain the essence of what made it fun in the mid-2000s, a lack of any substantial changes to the combat or gameplay will likely attract more classic fans than new zombie-slayers.

    I never played the original Oneechanbara games, so it was a delight to have an opportunity to go back to the roots. My only experience had been Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad on the Xbox 360 many years ago, but my time spent with both games has proved ultimately similar, even though it’s been over a decade. The combat, while ultimately simple by today’s standards, is still a lot of fun. Using your katana from the onset, you carve your way through waves upon waves of shambling zombies, severing limbs and decapitating enemies by the dozen.

    The more arcade-style hack n’ slash can start to feel a little repetitive the longer that you play, owing to the mid-2000s era style of combat which focused on simple combat input as opposed to complex combos or a variety of special abilities. Thankfully, as you progress through each of the games, combat opens itself up in new ways, bringing in additional weapons and unlocking new combat modes as Aya’s power increases.

    The Oneechanbara 1 & 2 (as they were originally called) stories are entertaining, but are pretty campy and predictable. The games follows the series protagonist Aya and her sister Saki, born from a family of assassins to different mothers and separated at a young age. While Aya trained to be an assassin like her father, Saki’s life was one of loss, leading her down a darker path and directly into conflict with her sister.

    Players will start out controlling Aya as she searches for her lost sister, reconnecting with family and making unlikely friends as she battles her way to answers behind her sister’s mysterious disappearance. The Onechanbara 2, which flows seamlessly from the end of the first game, picks up with Saki and Aya joining forces to finally uncover the truth behind their family. Along the way, after some specific conditions are met, you’ll be able to unlock the new playable character Rei, who is Aya’s info broker. The entire series is home to a host of colourful characters, and I couldn’t help but delight in some of the — mostly evil and often unhinged — characters I met along the way.

    The story is assuredly entertaining, in that delightful B-Movie kind of way. You can’t help but groan at some of the dialogue, but moments later you’ll be laughing out loud. A deep narrative is not what most people are really looking for in the Oneechanbara series however, and even the loosely-tied together threads are enough to hold together the story so players can focus on the combat.

    We come to Oneechanbara for the combat, and even if it’s relatively simple, that’s where the game shines. The single best aspect of combat is the Beserk Mode, which Aya can activate after she has been sufficiently covered in blood. Progressing further unlocks Xtatic Mode, turning your character into a rage-filled demon and allowing you to unleash devastating combos on enemies.

    The problem is, even with these shifts in combat the more you progress, it can still begin to feel repetitive after a while, as even the new zombie models continue to fall systematically before your blade. It’s a hack n’ slash game, and that’s exactly what you get with Oneechanbara: Origin. It doesn’t profess to be anymore than that, but the systems that passed for thrilling combat in 2005 feel somewhat lackluster in 2020.

    While Oneechanbara: Origin is a fun time to play, it suffers from the same issue that a lot of this generation’s remasters have all had in common: they lack that little extra something that would have went beyond a new coat of paint, and actually addressed some of the inner-workings to really make it shine. Apart from fans of the series who are looking to revisit the story for some nostalgia, it lacks a draw to bring new players into its fold. As the first game in the series in five years, it does little to attract a new audience.

    There are a wealth of cosmetic microtransactions that are available to purchase if you want to change up the style of Aya or any of the other characters, and even a handful of free costume changes. You can even purchase immediate access to Rei through the Season Pass if you want to get right to using her character.

    While the remaster doesn’t do anything big to advance the Oneechanbara series, it plays smoothly and looks great. The addition of Rei as a playable character adds some much-needed diversity to the combat, and it’s a joy to switch between the characters when going back to replay missions. The work done to touch up the original games with a new art style and character designs has paid off exceptionally, and watching limbs go flying and getting covered in blood as you carve through waves of the undead is gleeful fun.


    Final Score: 7.5/10

    Classic arcade hack n’ slash with some over-the-top fan service makes Oneechanbara Origin exactly what fans are looking for.

    The review copy of this game was a digital code provided by the publisher.

    Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Review

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    Title: Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Released On: November 10, 2020  Genre: Action Adventure Reviewed On: Xbox One Also Available On: Xbox Series S/X, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC Developer: Ubisoft Montreal Publisher: Ubisoft MSRP: $59.99 USD / $79.99 CAD


    The Assassin’s Creed series is one that has continuously re-invented itself over its thirteen year lifespan. Apart from taking us through major eras in history, the games have found new ways to captivate players through the continued evolution of core systems, the introduction of new mechanics, and a constant effort to push the boundaries that were set by previous titles. While there have been missteps along the way, Ubisoft has continuously learned from them and pushed forward to bring us some of the some of the best experiences of the franchise in recent years.

    Assassin’s Creed Valhalla marks yet another new direction for the series, once again learning from everything that made Origins and Odyssey such enticing adventures, and embarking on its own path to give us an overhauled combat system and another environment that begs to be explored. Viking your way through Norway and England is as captivating as it is comprehensive, and while there are some audio issues that persist throughout the game, the overall experience is a brutally enthralling one.

    Assassin's Creed Valhalla Sigurd

    Assassin’s Creed Valhalla tells the story of Eivor Wolf-Kissed, a member of the Raven Clan of Norway, who decides alongside their adoptive brother Sigurd and clan members, to embark to England after repeated power shifts in the Viking rule of the Norse lands. Knowing little of the land they are journeying to, but aided by mysterious new friends called the Hidden Ones, Eivor and her clan-brother aim to stake their own claim to the fertile lands of England, following in the footsteps of Vikings who came before.

    Ninth century England is a very different environment than what we’ve experienced before in the series, and one that is full of interesting characters, many of whom you will need as allies if you wish to conquer the Isle. A large portion of the major questlines involve pledging yourself to the leaders, or usurpers, of certain Shires and convincing them that the Raven Clan are valuable allies. Quests are not always black and white, and some of the choices you make have substantial ramifications that resonate through both the narrative and gameplay.

    Assassin's Creed Valhalla Dual Axe

    Playing on the Xbox One X, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla looks absolutely beautiful and for the most part runs extremely well. While Valhalla uses the same engine as the previous two titles, AnvilNext 2.0, it genuinely looks and feels like a different game. Going a-Viking through the hills of England is a fun and captivating experience, but one that at times can feel a little rough around the edges. Though I didn’t experience any serious bugs, some persistent audio glitches as well as the occasional parkour or movement issues slightly detracted from the overall experience.

    In 4K resolution, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is nothing short of stunning. After the grandeur of Ancient Greece, I was a little skeptical as to whether the more wooded and rustic ninth-century England would manage the same awe factor that we experienced when gazing over the Acropolis in Athens, but there is a serene beauty to the rolling countryside, foggy swamps, and winding rivers. That is, at least, when they’re not bathed in the blood of Saxons. I am excitedly looking forward to playing Valhalla on the Xbox Series X, and will provide an update to this review once I have had ample time to compare and contrast how Valhalla plays across the generational divide.

    Assassin's Creed Valhalla Longboat

    Combat has once again been overhauled, and while reminiscent of the changes that were made in the previous two games, Valhalla has a new combat system that sets it apart from its predecessors. Players can single or dual-wield axes and blades, use a shield in either (or both) hands, and wield massive two-handed weapons. Alternating between light and heavy attacks, you can unleash a barrage of blows upon enemies, creating an exceptionally frenetic and fast-paced combat that often involves dozens of people and limbs flying in every direction.

    As expected for a Viking game, battles are especially savage, and made even more so by the advent of a new ability system in Valhalla. As you unlock melee and ranged combat abilities through finding them hidden in the world, as well as occasionally as quest rewards, Eivor can decimate Saxons with new and ferocious attacks. Enemies additionally have a stamina meter which – when emptied by parrying or chaining systematic attacks – allows Eivor to land a brutal stun attack and kill the foe with their own weapon.

    Assassin's Creed Valhalla Combo

    Once you’ve made the journey from Norway to England, constructing and improving your settlement becomes a critical aspect of your adventure. You can find the necessary supplies and raw materials throughout the world, but they are mainly found in Abbeys and monasteries that can be seen dotting the riverbanks throughout the regions. Adding new structures to your settlement, Ravensthorpe, unlocks access to a host of new gameplay features, as well as additional questlines. While some buildings like the tattoo shop and shipyard provide cosmetic changes, facilities like the fishing hut and barracks provide useful services or allow you to customize your crew.

    Any settlement, large or small, that you come across while sailing your longboat can be raided with a simple command, bringing the full force of your Viking raiding party down on the unsuspecting Saxons. As with any good raid, you can set fire to the thatched roofs and buildings to both expedite your process, and send the villagers fleeing. Rowing down the rivers of England to raid settlements and cathedrals is one of the best parts of the game and helps to create a more organic-feeling Viking adventure.

    Each Shire in England has a veritable bounty to uncover, and Valhalla has done an absolutely outstanding job putting exploration and discovery firmly into the players hands. In a game that is about forging new paths in ‘untamed’ lands, it suits perfectly that the game would encourage the player to do the same to discover everything from side-quests and new abilities, to weapons and armour. Exploration has its own difficulty setting — as does Combat and Stealth — and playing on the hardest difficult — Pathfinder — removes many of the indicators and requires the player to use their raven and Odin’s sense to find new opportunities and hidden treasures.

    My absolute favorite aspect of the Assassin’s Creed series has always been their verisimilitude; that is to say their ability to create an experience that so closely approximates our own reality, or in this case history, through a fictional narrative. Ubisoft has once again proven that they are absolute masters of this craft, and it is so easy to lose yourself galloping through the countryside or sailing down the rivers, taking in the crumbling Roman ruins and burgeoning Saxon and Norse settlements. If you take the time to play through the side quests that dot the map, it’s almost impossible not to sink into the rich history and even learn a thing or two about life in ninth century England.

    Assassin's Creed Valhalla Wolf

    Perhaps the furthest divide from Odyssey is Valhalla‘s move away from many of the RPG features of the previous game. Though Eivor still gains experience, levels up, and invests points into a skill tree, the systems are now much more reminiscent of an action-adventure game over the previous games’ gear-score and level-based systems. Enemies no longer drop weapons, and so you won’t be sifting through hundreds of gear pieces to pick out the right equipment to level up.

    Weapons and armour in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla have much more permanence than they did previously, and you’ll be holding onto and using some of the same gear that you’ve had since the beginning of the game for dozens of hours or more. The Blacksmith at your settlement can enhance gear’s quality to unlock Rune slots, and Eivor can then further upgrade weapons and armour statistics using materials scavenged from the world. Your gear’s power is still important in combat, but it does not contribute to Eivor’s overall power level and lets the player focus on what they enjoy using, rather than what’s necessarily the ‘best’ gear to use.

    Assassin's Creed Valhalla Equipment

    Eivor has a massive skill tree that takes the form of Norse constellations, and which largely provides passive bonuses to damage (melee, ranged, and stealth), defense, and health. As you progress through the constellation tree you’ll unlock new branches, which give Eivor new active and passive combat abilities that augment combat by allowing instant-takedowns or additional Adrenaline segments. Most importantly, these skills contribute to Eivor’s overall power level, which gives the player a general idea of the Regions and enemies that they can tackle and allows them to progress to more substantial challenges.

    In addition to investing points into the skill constellation, Eivor can also unlock special ranged and melee abilities that can be equipped for combat. These abilities are not gained through levelling up however, but must be found throughout the world in Books of Knowledge. Each tomb provides Eivor with a new ability, or upgrades one that your character already has. Abilities require Adrenaline segments to use, which are gained through unleashing light and strong attacks or parrying your enemies, but can be lost just as easily by taking hits. Abilities don’t simply provide a boost to damage, but allow Eivor to unleash devastatingly vicious cinematic attacks on her enemies, and they are delightfully savage. As much fun as the core combat system is in Valhalla, nothing beats tackling your opponent to the ground and pummeling them with your fists, or lobbing axes across the battlefield at multiple foes.

    None of this would be possible in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla without a healthy dose of exploration though, and this is as true for a number of the quests as it is for tracking down collectibles. Quests don’t always give you the exact location that you need to visit, or even concrete directions to find the location on the map. Instead, Eivor must speak to villagers, assess surroundings and the information given, and explore wider areas of the map to uncover additional information that can help to determine the proper action in a specific situation.

    It’s another step forward for the series, as it pushes the player to think intuitively about their mission isntead of just blindly following markers. Most of these types of investigations are optional, but they serve to both bolster the story, and often Eivor’s case with whoever has tasked her.

    Assassin's Creed Valhalla Horn

    There are a wealth of new gameplay elements that make a first for the series in Valhalla, but just as exciting are the return of some classic features that marked some of the earliest titles. Instead of simply having restricted areas where enemies will attack Eivor on sight, England is full of ‘Distrust Areas’ which require a more subtle approach. In these areas, you can walk freely through the streets, but you must remain cloaked and use crowds, benches, and distractions to avoid the attention of guards. This hearkens back to the very first Assassin’s Creed game, but hasn’t been a major feature of the recent titles.

    The Hidden Blade has also made a return, and though at first it felt odd to have wielded by someone so brutish, they very much use it like a Viking. Stealth in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla marries classic and new features, but admittedly this was the first game in the series where I wanted to focus more heavily on open combat because of how fleshed-out and fun it’s become. Assassinations still require Eivor to have a substantial power level to be able to take an opponent down in one hit, but aside from some elite enemies I was often able to move my way through areas picking off enemies like in the classic games.

    Assassin's Creed Valhalla Stealth

    The narrative threads of Odyssey continue to twist into Valhalla, and in the present day the game features new series protagonist Layla and her team unearthing a rather shocking archeological discovery, which has led them to Eivor and ninth century England. The events at the end of Odyssey have left Layla shaken, but knowing that the Order of the Ancients are pressing after them pushes her to use the Animus and Eivor’s DNA to try and discern the secrets of the Staff of Hermes Trismegistus.

    Hunting down the Order of the Ancients in England is an integral aspect of Eivor’s journey, and they are seated in some of the most powerful positions in the land. Clues can be discovered through exploration and completing quests, which in turn reveals the identity of the hidden members. This is augmented by the Zealots, who much like the Mercenaries, can be found roaming the wilds of England. Unlike in Odyssey however, there is no bounty system so the Zealots will attack Eivor on sight, and often pose a substantial challenge.

    Assassin's Creed Valhalla Raven

    On the Xbox One, Valhalla suffers from a handful of bugs, and while thankfully most are minor in scale, some permeate through much of the game. with audio issues being the most pervasive. Sometimes characters’ dialogue will cut off in the middle of them speaking, while at other points different characters’ dialogue will overlap each other, turning it into a bit of a jumble without lining up with the actual scene. These hiccups typically righted themselves after a line or two, but were enough to disrupt a number of conversations. As well, when characters are having in-game conversations which are either important or just interesting, the game will occasionally cut them off and send the player into a cutscene if they’ve hit a contextual location.

    These issues weren’t game-breaking, but they were an annoyance which popped up occasionally throughout my playthrough. Far more irksome were the actual gameplay issues that I ran into, including minor gameplay stutters and issues surrounding the now-finicky parkour system. While the combat functioned without any real problems, the movement system left something to be desired. There was only one time that I actually got stuck and had to re-load a save, but overall the parkour and movement felt clunky at points, almost like a regression from previous games in the series. Instead of being able to easily free-climb like in previous games, I often had to re-orient myself because the system felt far less intuitive.

    Assassin's Creed Valhalla Open World

    When you’re not befriending Kings and Jarls or otherwise working to solidify your hold over England, there are a plethora of activities to keep you occupied across the vast map. There are mysteries to uncover, treasure hoards to discover, special enemies to fight and legendary animals to hunt. I found it almost impossible not to get sidetracked every time I would journey into an undiscovered areas, because there was always something to grab my attention. Not least of all raiding every single monastery that I came across so that I could continue to build up Ravensthorpe.

    There are also a number of side activities that you can occupy your time with as you’re travelling through the Shires, such as engaging in drinking contests, playing dice or flyting (competitive poetry reciting). You can bet and earn some silver by undertaking these competitions; winning flyting competitions also increases Eivor’s charisma and can unlock additional dialogue options in special circumstances.

    Assassin's Creed Valhalla Quest

    Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is a vast and fantastic game, and shows how expertly the series can move from completely different eras and gameplay styles to create a cohesive and captivating experience. Whereas before we used to say that titles felt like Assassin’s Creed games, now they very much tell their own stories. Vahalla very much feels like a Viking game first and an Assassin’s Creed game second, and that’s a very impressive feat. It’s also exactly what fans wanted from the series after the final games of the classic archetype, Unity and Syndicate. The threads of the series continue to tie the games together such that each title related but still feels like its own standalone and stand-apart game.

    With a revitalized combat system that brings some of the most savage and frenetic battles to the series, conquering England in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is a spectacular direction for the series. While there are some persistent audio bugs and the occasionally clunky parkouring segment, it was overall an enthralling experience that is sure to impress. Helping Eivor to grow from a single-minded Viking into a far more nuanced and well-rounded character through their experiences in the story was an unexpected and welcome growth, and I came to really respect and admire the honour code that she held. I’m looking forward to playing Valhalla on the Xbox Series X, and will bring you my impressions of the next-generation of Assassin’s Creed in the coming days.


    Final Score: 8.5/10

    While some minor issues prevent Assassin’s Creed Valhalla from reaching its true Viking potential, conquering England marks the next great chapter for the series.

    The review copy of this game was a digital code provided by the publisher.

    Watch Dogs: Legion Review

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    Title: Watch Dogs: Legion Released On: October 29, 2020  Genre: Action-Adventure Reviewed On: Xbox One X Also Available On: PC, PlayStation 4 Developer: Ubisoft Toronto Publisher: Ubisoft MSRP: $59.99 USD / $79.99 CAD


    The London of the future is a dark place. It’s a city where private military contractors and gangs work together to profit from crime, and xenophobia runs as rampant as the surveillance. The perfect setting for a group like DedSec to capture the hearts and minds of a disenfranchised and persecuted population.

    Watch Dogs: Legion is a new chapter in the saga that allows the player to tap into the entire city to rebuild DedSec after they are framed by a mysterious group for a series of bombings across London. Using Ubisoft’s “Play As Anyone” system, you can recruit any NPC that you encounter in the world, so long as you can convince them to join the cause. Alongside this groundbreaking system is a completely new direction for the Watch Dogs series, featuring a fine-tuned hacking system, engaging combat, and a deeply impactful narrative that resonates with our current society.

    Watch Dogs Legion Recruitment

    Legion is not simply a sequel to Watch Dogs 2, but a reimagining of the series. Instead of simply giving us more than we experienced in the second game — more hacking opportunities, more weapons, more side missions and activities to sink dozens of hours into — Ubisoft has refined the systems that were already in place and given players a much more streamlined experience. Their core addition focuses on “Play As Anyone”, their new system that brings London to life and allows you to recruit any NPC in the game into a playable character.

    In terms of actual open-world hacking, it’s actually been scaled back substantially from the second game, which at times could almost feel a little overwhelming. You don’t have as many options when hacking people, apart from the usual Disrupt, and there aren’t traffic lights to change or sewer grates to blow up every twenty feet. While this initially felt limiting after the wealth of options in San Francisco, it created a much cleaner concept that felt less muddied. Don’t get me wrong; you can still control people’s vehicles or raise barriers to evade pursuit, and since surveillance is London’s forte there are cameras and drones galore to hijack, but the entire hacking system feels more purposeful.

    I have always been a huge fan of Ubisoft games, but if there was ever an issue it was that some have felt like they lost their own direction in trying to do and be too many things at once. Watch Dogs: Legion shows first and foremost that this lesson has been taken to heart, as the game serves as a well balanced juxtaposition of direction and distraction, which is what many of us are looking for in an open-world action adventure.

    Watch Dogs Legion Nigel

    The slightly futuristic version of London has been faithfully recreated, which should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Ubisoft’s attention to detail in crafting their game environments. I’ve only travelled there once myself, but I was delighted to see the accurate representation of Piccadilly Circus, to gaze across the river Thames from Parliament at the London Eye, and to have the opportunity to infiltrate the infamous Tower of London. It’s a city that not only feels like an accurate representation of its real-world counterpart, but one that has a familiar atmosphere to it because of the work that has been done to make it feel like a living, breathing city.

    Watch Dogs: Legion has a very concrete direction that it aims to take the player, and one that is thoroughly fleshed out and impactful through both its narrative and your interaction with the world itself. In addition to scaling back the hacking infrastructure, London doesn’t feel as heavily clogged with icons denoting side activities, collectibles and other distractions, making the city feel much tidier. Not literally of course; it is London after all.

    Watch Dogs Legion Albion

    While the core of Watch Dogs: Legion‘s narrative focuses on exploring how Albion, a militarized private security force, has wrested control of law enforcement from the hands of actual authorities on the guise of security against terrorists and “illegals”, there are a lot of less-than-subtle mirrors that Ubisoft Toronto has held up to reflect the current world we live in. While Ubisoft is known for peripherally touching upon social or political issues in their games, Legion hits home hard with issues that we as a global society have been grappling with.

    Specifically and very poignantly, Legion spends substantial time looking at how Albion uses fabricated or perceived threats to people’s safety to enforce drastic security measures and round up immigrants or anyone classified as “illegal” to deport them or worse. People are jailed from routine ID scans that security forces are performing on every block, and drones scan citizens to ensure they have no connection to DedSec or any of their affiliates. These types of activities aren’t just happening in the background of the narrative though; you actually see them play out on the streets as you make your way through London and have the ability to intervene if you choose to.

    Watch Dogs Legion Recruit

    Watch Dogs: Legion also explores the heavy use of force by law enforcement, albeit in this example it is the jack-booted Albion enforcers doling out “justice” since the actual bobbies have been completely hamstrung. It is no coincidence that in a game set in a near-future London there is a focus on public xenophobia fueled by propaganda, and made worse by violence at the hands of the authorities.

    There has been a rise of anti-immigrant sentiment in England over the past decade, which is part of what fueled the recent Brexit movement. This isn’t to say that England is at all alone in experiencing growing nationalism, but the real-world combination of rising xenophobia in what has long been a surveillance city makes for a eerily perfect setting for Watch Dogs special brand of resistance.

    Watch Dogs Legion Posters

    The crux of Watch Dogs: Legion‘s side missions revolve around you taking control back from Albion: sabotaging propaganda, taking pictures of incriminating evidence against the contractor, and other activities that help to show people that DedSec is not the enemy. Through accomplishing enough of these missions in each borough, you can inspire people to become Defiant and unlock special missions to deal a serious blow to Albion’s hold on the district. The added bonus is that these missions also unlock a special operative, who has abilities that typically far outweigh those of the regular citizen.

    You won’t have to look long or hard to start seeing military contractors rounding people up on the street and arresting them, while onlookers continue about their day, or move away from the scene. What truly amazed me was that I actually hit a point after I had led enough boroughs to revolt where people started fighting back against Albion when they saw these types of injustices occurring on the streets. You can actually start to really see and feel the impact that you’re having on society as new areas become Defiant.

    Watch Dogs Legion Protestors

    After DedSec is framed, not much is left of the organization to strike back at Albion and help to free the people of London. One of the former leaders of the London chapter has fled the city to escape persecution, and all that remains at DedSec HQ is their stolen super-intelligent and all-knowing AI, Bagley. Bagley could have a game to himself, and is arguably the most fully fleshed out character in the entire game. His sarcastic charm and unbelievably dry British wit comprise a large portion of the background narrative to your missions, and his quips throughout the story comprised some of the best dialogue in the game.

    While there are a handful of main characters in addition to Bagley that all of us will meet and engage with, you’ll spend the majority of your time getting to know the people of London through Ubisoft’s “Play As Anyone” system. In Watch Dogs: Legion, you can legitimately recruit and play as any single person that you encounter in the game, including those very same jack-booted stormtroopers you’re fighting against. Some of them must be tired of being fascist thugs, right?

    Watch Dogs Legion Scanning

    Much like in previous Watch Dogs games, scanning people will give you a brief synopsis of them, as well as let you know what their current job is and whatever activity they are currently engaged in. In Legion however, you can then choose to save any intriguing NPCs to your recruitment list. From here, depending on their sentiments towards DedSec, you’ll have to work to win over their trust and convince them to join the organization. NPCs who are already sympathetic to your cause may only require a single mission, whereas those who distrust the hacker group require additional recruitment leads.

    Through using your profiler, you can investigate recruitment leads on potential recruits to try and determine ways you may be able to sway them. This is in addition to getting their full schedule, which essentially allows you to track any NPC around the map as they go about their daily routine. Most NPCs typically have a single recruitment lead which can often be solved with a simple hack, whereas others require you to undergo serious operations to gain their trust.

    Watch Dogs Legion Leads

    The living statue has gambling debts with a gang, so you find out where their friend hangs out to get more information and hopefully save them. Only upon tracking them to the gang’s hideout, you find out that he was intentionally accruing heavy losses to infiltrate their organization and plant a virus. Or the mother of an immigrant DJ from Trinidad and Tobago who is under threat of being deported, so you rescue her from Albion and inform her son to gain his trust. The best part here was, I didn’t actively seek out his mother immediately because I was otherwise preoccupied, but then I came across her being arrested and intervened.

    The “Play As Anyone” system alone breathes so much life into the world of Watch Dogs: Legion in ways we’ve never seen before. Every single NPC has a story to tell, if you take the time to look closely enough. For someone like me who absolutely loses themselves over a thoroughly fleshed out world, it was nearly impossible at first not to get lost down the multiple rabbit holes stemming from recruitment leads and fun characters I’d run into on the streets.

    Watch Dogs Legion Hitman

    The way that members of your team interact with each other and the world is another part of the charm behind the system. When you complete a mission, you’ll often liaise with random operatives about your thoughts or next moves, of course with a quip here and there from Bagley. It really makes it feel like you’re growing a grassroots hacker organization, as new recruits join in on conversations and lend their voice to the greater cause.

    The characters do all manage to feel like unique personalities as well, with the help of different stories and connections to the world. It was announced previously that the developers have used voice modulation because of the sheer impossibility of having enough different people to records the thousands of different NPCs. While you’ll occasionally come across similar dialogue coming from different characters, the voice modulation was so well done that if I hadn’t been told this was how it was achieved, I would have assumed there were many more voice actors than actually worked on Legion.

    Watch Dogs: Legion Hamish

    Every single NPC has layers to their story, which are only added upon by their own family, friends, and associates. And these stories are playing out all across the boroughs of London, just waiting for you to stumble into them. You’ll undoubtedly get attached to certain characters, not just because of their special abilities but because of their personality or style. Or maybe just because you keep helping out their associates and hindering their rivals throughout the city.

    If you do help out an NPC or an associate of theirs, you’ll end up having a positive impact on them, both improving their outlook of DedSec and making them an easier candidate for recruitment. Conversely, if you have a negative affect on someone, either through harming them or their associates, they’ll have a negative opinion of DedSec and may even grow to hate them with repeated offenses. Who knows, you might even end up with your own Adversary.

    For the purposes of this review I played without Permadeath turned on, which meant that my characters were arrested or hospitalized but not lost to me forever. Having every single non-player character be so fleshed out already adds such a weight to all of your actions, and permadeath really makes you consider how you want to engage with every scenario.

    Watch Dogs: Legion Explosion

    In addition to having their own stories and connections to the world, many characters even have personal weapons or their own distinct set of abilities, both passive and active, which greatly advantage them as an operative in specific situations. These abilities or weapons are often tied into their line of work; an anarchist can throw smoke bombs and attack with a truncheon, while a living statue can pose to escape a pursuit. A barrister can bail other operatives out of jail if they get arrested, while suiting up as a construction worker or Albion security can get you into restricted areas. You’ll run into characters who have different combinations of abilities and weapons, so it’s all about picking the team of operatives that you want to run with.

    This system also means that there are some huge divides from how we are typically used to playing open-world action games. There is no store where you can go buy cars or weapons to outfit your favorite character. You can change your Tech Gadget and your special DedSec non-lethal weapons, but otherwise each character comes as a complete package. If you want a serious arsenal, you’ll have to recruit gang members, professional hitmen, or just that random passerby who happens to own a G36. Similarly some characters may own their own car that they can call on demand, but most will have to hitch a ride from one of London’s many self-automated cars.

    Watch Dogs: Legion Car

    There are still of course a healthy number of collectibles to seek out as you’re moving your way through the world, and side missions and other distractions that you can engage with, but everything feels purposeful instead of tacked-on. You can pick up audio and data files which will give you more insight into the not-so-near-future London, and relics that give the player some actual English history, on everything from WWII resistance to Mod subculture in the 60s. Most importantly though, are the plethora of masks that can typically be found in hostile areas or out of reach places that will require you to make smart use of your versatile operatives as well as your own ability to deduce a solution.

    The game is not without its flaws, but I found them to be peripheral to my main experiences with Legion and never something that detracted from my enjoyment. They were more the usual graphical hiccups you might expect to see in a game of this size; the occasional NPC clipping into an object or other NPC, or a bit of a graphical anomaly. There were never any substantial technical issues that I encountered during my playthrough which actually impacted my experience.

    Watch Dogs Legion

    In lieu of giving us more with Watch Dogs: Legion, Ubisoft chose to reinvent the series based around the core concept of “Play As Anyone’ and it’s massively paid off. In addition to the main storyline, Legion is absolutely full of all sorts of missions and distractions, but all of them are joined together through rallying the people of London around DedSec. Every action you take in the world has a weight, and one that causes ripples that permeate through society.

    Watch Dogs: Legion is a game that will truly be experienced differently by every single player. How we choose to assemble our operatives, how we choose to play them, and most importantly how we decide to intervene into the lives of everyday Londoners will greatly shape each person’s experience. With the release of Legion‘s online mode in December and the ability to recruit and play with our friends, taking back London will truly be in the people’s hands.


    Final Score: 9/10

    Watch Dogs: Legion is the perfect evolution of the series, with the ability to play as any character bringing substantial depth to the gameplay and world.

    The review copy of this game was a digital code provided by the publisher.

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