Zanki Zero or A Unique Japanese Survival Experience

Posted in Hands On with tags , , , , on April 29, 2019 by Rabidgames

Zanki Zero: Last Beginning is one hell of a weird game: Part graphic novel, part first-person survival JRPG, and a big part of “what the hell?” throughout. It is entirely different but comes close to the strange atmosphere of the great weird cousin Nier: Automata, but while that is true, it is also misleading.

Where to start explaining Zanki Zero (let’s cut the Last Beginning part, shall we)? Well, first, the less you get know about the story without having played the game the better. Let’s say you, a cloned character wake up at an island and you’re grouped with 7 other mid-20s – all wacky characters following your usual JRPG fashion – who are told by two demented TV show hosts, a horny dumb boy and a talking sheep wary of its ass, that they’re the only survivors of some kind of apocalypse. Well, technically, they’re rather clones than really alive, and now their job is to explore drifting islands and complete the arcade machine that clones them so they can “rebuild humanity” … Still there?

 

 

A core mechanic is also a rather peculiar one: if you die in Zanki Zero, you get to clone another clone of the dead character via an arcade machine – if you scored enough points. You get points by defeating enemies, at first mere goats and pigs, if you play on normal or below at least. And here’s the thing – you’ll actually want to die a whole damn lot (well, at least one character always MUST survive to carry the metal belly buttons of your team back to the arcade machine) because afterwards you can clone your characters with so-called Shigabane, which makes the character stronger. Yes, Zanki Zero actually asks you to kill off your characters to make them stronger many times! And even better, you need to kill them off in different ways to get more bonuses!

The story is told via anime-style graphic novel screens and TV show segments. You gradually uncover the dark pasts of the 8 protagonists of Zanki Zero, and 7 of the stories revolve around the 7 mortal sins. But trust Rabidgames: again -the less you know the better, because there are lots of great twists in the story that make you wonder what the fuck is going on in this demented world?

The gameplay centres around first-person hacking and slashing (a bit later on you also get ranged weapons) where you best attack, fall back and wait for your next turn, looting everything you can find to craft more and sturdier stuff, and some light puzzles to solve. It starts easy but becomes more challenging, and Zanki Zero does the old trick of telling you that you’ll get more loot the higher the difficulty. It’s best to experiment with the difficulty until you find your balance, and that may or may not include changing it depending on what’s happening on-screen.

You also get skill points to develop your characters in a confusingly convoluted skill menu. They range from better HP or defence to access to higher-level crafting. The survival aspect involves HP, stamina, stress and bladder. Yes, bladder! Eat or drink too much in Zanki Zero, and you’ll piss yourself, resulting in a maximum stress level and terrible stats as a result of it (look at that for realism!). But don’t worry, you often find empty bottles you can pee into. No one is judging. Right? Right?

Zanki Zero has a big problem though – you can only save at designated save points. If you’re in the middle of a dungeon but you have to be somewhere in 5 minutes, well, tough luck. You can teleport to your base but then you’ll have to start the dungeon all over again. And usually, save points are only to be found every 30 to 45 minutes or so, and auto-saves occur rather randomly. This can be quite frustrating. The cutscenes can also reach Metal Gear Solid length – a long conversation followed by a TV show segment followed by 5 minutes of talking isn’t too rare an occurrence in Zanki Zero.

If you are looking for a game that is entirely different from the stuff you usually play, Zanki Zero is your game! It’s incredibly weird and becomes quite challenging after a while (except on 1* difficulty, of course), but it reliably drags you in to just play for “one more cutscene” or “one more dungeon floor” … In its own way, it is quite similar to Nier: Automata; it creates a unique atomosphere by mixing up gameplay systems and genres as well as cranking the strangeness up to 11, and both games hide some philosophy behind the weirdness

Zanki Zero may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you like oddness and a fair share of scantily clad females and a butt load of double entendres, it may very well your favourite fix for quite a while – there is also a New Game+ mode where you can get even more rewards.

 

Rabidgames’ verdict: DO NOT BUY if you have no patience for long and ever-present cutscenes or weird isn’t your thing. DOWNLOAD THE DEMO if you are unsure whether the game might too fucking weird for you. This game surely ain’t for everybody.

DO BUY if you like a twisted story full of mind fucks and a somewhat different survival experience. Zanki Zero offers a fresh breath of unique ideas you won’t find in many games.

 

Enjoy All the Extreme Violence of Mortal Kombat 11!

Posted in Commentary, News with tags , , , on April 24, 2019 by Rabidgames

We live in an age where everyone and their mother knows video games can be art, just like every other kind of entertainment. But sometimes it’s good to know there are still games out there that shamelessly glorify gratuitous violence. With gallons of blood and gore. Obviously, Mortal Kombat has always been on the forefront of glorifying violence for laughs.

But as graphics have evolved, the violence in Mortal Kombat games has, too. And Mortal Kombat 11 is a massive splatter fest of exploding limbs and gore, as this video of surgery and dismemberment proves.

Rabidgames grins: Ah, 30 minutes of mutilation and murder. Isn’t it great?

Outward or Unforgiving, Clunky and yet Fascinating – At Times

Posted in Hands On, Played & Explained with tags , , , on April 22, 2019 by Rabidgames

Imagine you get thrown into a game where you have exactly zero clue what’s going on. Imagine you can’t really die but you simply wake up somewhere. Imagine Piranha Bites (Gothic, Risen, Elex) create a world with their clunky combat system but take away each and every comfort; you can easily bleed or freeze to death, and fights can be over almost as quickly and as mercilessly as in Kingdom Come: Deliverance. That’s Outward in a nutshell.

But let’s start from the beginning. Your ship wrecks somehow, you’re on an island, you roam around … and quickly you notice how fucking ugly everything looks. Really, Outward is often an ugly game on the PS4 (seems to be a bug, but hasn’t been fixed yet)! It sometimes rather looks like a PS2 game, truth be told. Some levels look nice in the right light, sure, but that won’t happen too often. Speaking of light, what good is a torch or a lantern if it doesn’t illuminate your way properly at night? Good luck falling from a cliff because you can’t see it …

Anyway, once you die or sleep in the prologue part, you wake up in your house and you get sent on a quest to get some money or your house is gone. Skill-wise, you’re a nobody in Outward. You can’t really fight, no one likes you (well, not enough to pay your debts at least) etc. Well, thing is, you partially can’t fight because of the narrative, but for the most part, the fighting system is just awful or below average at the best of times. It’s like Gothic or Risen, just worse, more tedious, and even less fun. Outward rarely lets you feel comfortable, simply because it wants to be a survival RPG. Especially the first 5 hours are a big pain, which is rarely ever a good sign for a game.

 

Another problem Outward has is that its world is incredibly bland. From its landscapes (greenery, snow, desert, name it) to its systems to its enemies, you’ve seen it all before. And often better implemented with better lore. Speaking of lore, it also doesn’t help that the English subtitles often don’t match the audio. Sometimes, the audio is shortened, sometimes it’s entirely different. So it’s hard to immerse in the world from a story perspective when the fighting system is clunky and stuff such as crafting and skills are also just there, because they have to be there in a game like Outward.

Technically, the game also has issues. Graphics and audio issues aside, you sometimes happen to lose your inventory. Yes, the one thing that can outright kill you – or “only” ruin you in Outward – can happen here. It may get fixed soon, but who cares after having lost 5 hours of progress? Also, whenever you go to sleep in Outward, it makes you sleepy in real life, too. why? Because the loading screen is on-screen forever – for no apparent reason. And here’s the thing – you’ll sleep a lot to heal or to pass some time until the quest giver or target shows up. That’ll add up to a lot of time spent watching loading screens.

So, does Outward have any redeeming qualities? Well, it tells you the story of a nobody from a perspective of a nobody. It’s not entirely new, but still rather rare. The backpack system is also interesting: the bigger the backpack, the more you can carry – but the bigger the penalties, too. This gives Outward a somewhat strategic layer to balance loot and manoeuvrability. Same goes for the magic systems: you have runes you can combine for different effects. It’s a nice system once you get used to it, even if it feels a bit clunky, too.

Also, the map is just a map in Outward. No other indication on it related to your position. No hand-holding or icons. If you want to know where you are after waking up, well, consult the map, take a good look around and good luck. Hope you have some skills navigating your way around. It’s a nice little feature of Outward that enhances the adventure feeling, and this is actually a feature that more games should have.

At the end of the day, Outward is a game of missed chances: The bugs should have been fixed, the fighting system should have been fun and the game should have presented itself as a game that’s worth playing. At the current stage, Outward lacks too many things, especially in the bland beginning. There’s some fun to be had for those who can see past all of this, but there may not be many who feel that way if better games are released left and right.

Rabidgames’ verdict: GO BUY if you’re itching for a hardcore survival game where you are on your own without a friendly UI and if you don’t mind the rather generic and way too clunky nature of the game. WAIT if you want some bugs to be ironed out first.

DO NOT BUY if you want a flawless and  unique experience. This game lacks an identity of its own in many aspects, features terrible melee fights and it has quite a few technical issues on top of it. Close to full price seems a bit much for this experience.

 

Netflix announces a Dragon’s Dogma Anime!!!

Posted in News with tags , , on March 12, 2019 by Rabidgames

Now if that isn’t a pleasant surprise! A Dragon’s Dogma anime! As reported by many sites, including Eurogamer, the story of that Netflix show seems a bit different from what we would have expected knowing the game:

Based on a world-famous action RPG set in an open world, Dragon’s Dogma from Capcom will be brought to life as a Netflix original anime series. The story follows a man’s journey seeking revenge on a dragon who stole his heart. On his way, the man is brought back to life as an ‘Arisen’. An action adventure about a man challenged by demons who represent the seven deadly sins of humans.

Erm, demons? Seven deadly sins? Wait, what? Anyway, here’s hoping we will hear many, many, many Pawn quotes in the Dragon’s Dogma anime, after all, because here’s the thing with Pawn quotes: “They’re masterworks all, you can’t go wrong!”

Whatever the quality of the anime, the fact Capcom does this – and the release of Dragon’s Dogma on the Switch – give us plenty of hope that the one game we’ve been craving for years finally will see the light of day soon-ish: Dragon’s Dogma 2.

Rabidgames can’t wait: More Dragon’s Dogma is always good. Always. Period.

Anthem vs The Division 2: Open Beta Face-Off

Posted in Commentary, Gaming these days ..., Hands On with tags , , , , , on March 9, 2019 by Rabidgames

We don’t often see two massive, open-world(ish) titles pushing out open betas to try to convince people just before their respective launches in such a short time. While Anthem is more of a sci-fi game with futuristic tech and rather fantastic enemies, The Division 2 is a slightly futuristic-ish game with human enemies. And well, both are always-online loot shooters with a “games as a service system” so lets compare the shit out of them!

One thing – let’s not pretend an open beta is more than just a demo. If you really have to test your servers or your game that late in development, you’re fucked anyway.

It’s been a few days to let the open beta experience of The Division 2 sink in, so let’s get going now and see how both open betas fared!

Technical stuff

GRAPHICS: Anthem looked nice and impressive, whereas TD2 (let’s be lazy, shall we?) looked a step down from its predecessor. Both betas were plagued by pop-ups and other problems, but this point goes to Anthem because the world actually looks stunning at times.
Anthem-Division 1:0

SOUND: This is a tough one. Both games weren’t too convincing in the sound department, and both betas showed signs that there is still some work to do in both cases. However, TD2 had some serious issues with the weapon sounds. giving Anthem the edge here.
Anthem-Division 2:0

STABILITY: TD2 had issues in the closed beta, but so had Anthem. In Anthem’s open beta however, it was very common to either not be able to connect or to get thrown out of the game when connected, which happened on a very regular basis, making the game unplayable for tens of minutes at times. TD2 on the other hand, ran fine with very few connection issues and very few hiccups.
Anthem-Division 2:1

STARTING OUT: Anthem was cumbersome – Going from the hub veeeery slowly to the hangar area took a while, and going back to report and get the next objective was the same drag. Matchmaking was also rather weird and sometimes resulted with no results, wasting’everybody’s time. TD2 was more fluid from the get-go, and running inside hubs can help. Sadly, neither beta offered an easy drop in/drop out service, which seems odd in this day and age.
Anthem-Division 2:2

Beta Content

CUSTOMISATION: Both betas show not much in terms of character customisation. Anthem let us lightly customise the Javelin and our loadout, TD2 let us lightly customise our agent and the loadout, too. However, it felt easier to try out different builds in TD2 as you could do so on the spot instead of collecting orbs that were sent to the hub. All the cosmetic stuff you found to individualise your character was also more accessible than the convoluted way to change the colour of the Javelin (which also was lost when rebooting the Anthem beta the next time).
Anthem-Division 2:3

THE WORLD: We got to see most of the world of Anthem. It looked nice, yes, but also devoid of many landmarks or points of interest. You also had to actively look for activity beyond angering wildlife because it was pretty empty. TD2’s overgrown and green Washington DC was full of life, be it animals, friendly or hostile humans – there could be danger just around the corner all the time, so it’s easy to see who wins here.
Anthem-Division 2:4

WORLD BUILDING: The hub in Anthem felt static and sterile, filled with static NPCs, pointless dialogue choices and “not available in beta” signs instead of actual dialogues in most cases. Just like the rest of the world, it felt empty, even a bit trivial After you did missions, you came back and it was all the same. TD2 showed a world you rebuild and actively change. After all, you literally re-build the world in TD2.
Anthem-Division 2:5

MISSIONS: Anthem had some missions and one end-game mission. And free roam. TD2 had some main missions, lots of repeatable side missions, free roam was part of the world anyway, and also one end-game mission. While both are mostly go from A to B to kill C, Anthem was quite boring as it felt pretty generic, whereas TD2 offered more interesting levels that required some tactical planning. Being able to explore and discover seamlessly between missions and free roam is an easy win for TD2.
Anthem-Division 2:6

Gameplay

MOVEMENT: Obviously, flying around in a vertical world is cooler than walking and running around. You can fucking FLY!!!
Anthem-Division 3:6

SHOOTING: Technically, that’s a point for Destiny here. Shooting isn’t too great in either Anthem or TD2 compared to Destiny’s only strength. But between those two, TD2 actually had a more diverse cast of weapons at its disposal and shooting them felt slightly more “real” and satisfying.
Anthem-Division 3:7

ABILITIES: To be fair, Rabidgames has a weakness for the primer/detonator combat of Mass Effect that is also built into Anthem so that’s a strong point for the Bioware game. The abilities in TD2 felt a bit nerfed, making it harder to use them to our advantage. They’re not useless, but not as fun as the combos in Anthem.
Anthem-Division 4:7

GAMEPLAY VARIETY: Well, both are shooters. You aim, you shoot, boom, splash, splatter. But while enemies in Anthem are either weak or bullet sponges – and could be easily copied over from DestinyTD2 offer variety with its human and robot opponents. Firefights in Anthem’s open beta all played out the same in the categories grunts and bosses. You shoot until they fall, and sure, bosses eat 10,000 bullets for breakfast, resulting in extremely boring circle and shoot orgies while occasionally escaping super attacks. TD2’s fights were a bit harder – you needed to cover your flanks or you were wiped out. Also, a screen full of enemies, drones and remote-controlled bomb-cars in a narrow room was an intense feeling, and bosses there had visual armour you can shoot off to finish off the boss quicker.
Anthem-Division 4:8

THE LOOT: We got weapons and other goodies only after missions in Anthem, which didn’t felt satisfying. At all. And the selection was even less interesting than in Destiny! In TD2, you can play with new loot on the spot, which made playing around with builds and mods more fun. Of course, the endgames in both games will show how good loot really is, but for now, it seems you can do more with it in TD2 – from crafting weapons to donating it to friendly settlements, you shouldn’t sell all you have.
Anthem-Division 4:9

THE SYSTEMS: Now, this is a tough one judging from the beta. Both are RPGs that let you build, craft and customise the gear you like. Anthem pretty much has the mission -> rewards -> customisation loop, while TD2 has more – you upgrade your base and settlements, you open up checkpoints to control districts (where you then open up a door with loot). Plus, you get to see your changes in TD2’s world. In RPG terms, both are pretty light though – the dialogue choice in Anthem are a joke though, if you think who did it!
Anthem-Division 4:10

THE FINAL RESULT: Anthem 4, The Division 10

Rabidgames thinks: It is inexplicable why Bioware/EA chose an outdated version that was a technical nightmare to proudly show off Anthem. It also didn’t do much to tell anything worthwhile about what’s going on. The Division 2 however showed us how the game starts, what’s going on and how many of its systems work together. Substance over style sums it up nicely – Anthem had a nice world with cool flying, but that’s about it. The Division 2 offered lots of content to be experimented with.

It’s no surprise The Division 2 beats Anthem in the beta contest because of those factors, which shows EA either doesn’t get what a beta is these days or that Ubisoft is more confident enough to show us what they got up their sleeves. Or both.

That being said, expect Rabidgames to get Washington D.C. up and running in The Division 2 soon. Anthem must wait, also because the “final” game itself is far from final …

8 Reasons Why New Dawn Is Better Than Far Cry 5

Posted in Commentary, Hands On with tags , , , on March 4, 2019 by Rabidgames

You know, if it’s easy to see a game improving on its predecessor within just hours, it’s a good sign. And yes, Far Cry New Dawn might rather resemble an add-on than a stand-alone game, but it beats Far Cry 5 in many ways. Here are 8 reasons summed up quickly:

  1. No more abductions: Honestly, this bullshit was the biggest reason why Far Cry 5 sucked. The abductions were pointless, too often and how on earth the kidnappers could then, and only then, detect you everywhere on a map is beyond the laws of, well, everything. This shit is gone now. Thank fuck!
  2. More gameplay diversity: Far Cry 5 had quite some things to do, but it was mostly the same pace. New Dawn mixes this up quite a bit: Sure, there’s still stealth and shooting, but now there’s also racing to an extraction point when everyone is homing in on you at the end of the new Expeditions, and there are packages you need to race to to get some goodies.
  3. Crazier than ever: Yeah, Far Cry 5 had a bear and a cougar as guns for hire. Well, New Dawn has a boar and a sniper granny who’s “like a 1000 years old but can shoot a dick off a mosquito”. And all guns for hire now have more useful perks. Speaking of guns, guns are also crazier now. The ricocheting Saw Launcher clearly is a highlight!
  4. The landscape is more diverse: Sounds bizarre, but the downfall of civilisation has brought more greenery and colours to Hope County, and seeing the changes for yourself is a nice thing. And sad at times. And once more, Expeditions: They bring you to completely new areas.
  5. Exploration is spelt with a capital E: You can find lots of things in the world, and many loot is hidden behind an – often quite simplistic – puzzle. Some are a bit more elaborate and require some steps or just a bit of platforming though. One of the key innovations of New Dawn are the Expeditions; exploring gets you more loot, but you don’t want to alarm everyone before you grab the package you’re there for.
  6. The RPG elements add depth: Sure, there are just very light RPG elements, but they add some level of strategy to it – should you take out the one elite enemy first? How? You can use a perk for a Takedown. Or you level up your weapons. Should you even take him out? (Of course.) Sadly, once you’re in the late game, all of this doesn’t matter any more, but for a while, the danger posed by over-levelled human and especially animal enemies shrugging your bullets away before tearing you to pieces makes up for some entertainment new to Far Cry.
  7.  Crazy powers: Not to go to deep into spoiler territory, but at a certain point of New Dawn you’ll get new powers. It might not make much sense but who cares – all you need is a leap of faith! If you do crazy, you gotta do crazy right after all …
  8.  Proper end-game content: You can scrap and take over Outposts on the hardest setting as many times as you want. Same goes for Expeditions. As a reward, you can upgrade perks and guns virtually infinitely … If you’re the kind of guy who likes a challenge or wants to have a handgun that nukes everyone, New Dawn offers this kind of entertainment for you.

Rabidgames muses: Far Cry 5 went into a dark and twisted direction, which only partially worked. New Dawn chooses the Saints Row way out instead, and that makes for a better game.

Activision And Capitalism’s Ugly Face

Posted in Commentary, Gaming these days ..., News with tags , , , on February 15, 2019 by Rabidgames

You might have read that Activision Blizzard is firing people, right? You might have also read they’re firing people despite making hefty profits, in fact Activion’s boss talks about “record revenue” …

Here’s the thing – that shouldn’t surprise us. For years now, the gaming industry has been exactly that – an industry. Those who craft, develop and enjoy games still work there, but usually just as low-level employees. The ones ruling the shots are fucking assholes in suits who treat games like they’d treat cars, materials, or even worse than games, food or medicine: as means to generate shitloads of money so they and their fucking shareholders get richer and richer. At the same time, they don’t give a shit about the company, why would they, after all? After bleeding out one company, they can go bleeding the next one dry. The word enough simply does not exist in the capitalist dictionary.

This kind of shit is regarded as normal in our capitalist world; workers getting fed bread crumbs while parasitic shareholders and their managers in suits feast on golden cakes. And you know, the absurd thing is that those managers in suits primarily answer to those fucking shareholders. If 800 people get fired, lose their jobs, potentially their homes, they don’t give a fuck. But if one shareholder feels 5% profit isn’t enough for the platinum cake he wants to buy, the next “logical” thing will be firing 800 more workers.

This is the fucked up world we live in. If you want games made by gamers for gamers for enjoyment and for the game makers to make a living, indie games are your only choice. With every AAA game you buy, you make sure the artists, developers and other workers get fed, sure. But for each pound they might get, 2 pounds (probably more) go the fucking shareholders.

Rabidgames wonders: What to do? Well, we can buy less AAA games and more indie games. But would that really help? There’s talk about a gaming union in the UK, which would greatly help things, of course. But at the end of the day, it’s simple: Gaming is just as fucked as the rest of the world. It’s not different, it’s just another means for corporations to make money for themselves.