Archive for Survival

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.

 

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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.

 

Conan Exiles or Of Gore, Chore and Freedom for Dicks

Posted in Hands On with tags , , , , , on June 1, 2018 by Rabidgames

First things first – yes, you can have your character run and bounce around naked in Conan Exiles. You can have a dick blowing in the wind, or some (rather artificial looking) tits hanging out, both in the size of your choosing. Why? Fuck knows (Conan lore might be good answer if someone asks you). After a few minutes of watching dick and balls flying about every time your dude jumps, you’ll be happy to put on some trousers though. Imagine a sandstorm rubbing against your genitals – that’s some rather unwelcome immersion … Or maybe not, if you’re an advocator of nudism.

Okay, with the genitals out of the way, yes, Conan Exiles is much more than that. It’s a rather classic survival game with tons of blood and gore, and you will also spend a considerable time of your gaming time in menus, building and crafting stuff. And breaking the will of people you deem worthy of enslaving is another thing to do in your spare time in the Hyborian age.

You can play Conan Exiles online in a PvP setting, in a PvE setting, with just a friend or, if you prefer to be the only king, alone. There are plenty of options to choose from to find the perfect way you want to play the game. Customisation isn’t the deepest but the mix of races, religion and appearance is also not the worst. And well, whether you want to allow the world to see your character in all your glory …

Let’s start with the story. Easy. You are hanging on a cross and not doing too well, the one and only Conan saves you, the sandbox is yours. And it’s a big, nice sandbox. Different terrains, different climates you need to be prepared for, and enemies all over the world. At first though, you have no clue what’s going on in Conan Exiles, what you can do or what you should do. As soon as you arrive at the first oasis with water and food aplenty after a few minutes, you will start experimenting to find your favourite way how to survive.

And it’ll take some time – you have a skill tree that gives you bonuses every 10 or so ability points you in turn get for pretty much every action you perform for the first time, you have a massive crafting tree that lets you unlock different things to craft, and you definitely have to start gathering plant materials, wood, food, pelts, meat, human flesh … well, the last one is optional (but useful if you worship certain gods).

Now – there’s lots of content in Conan Exiles, but how good is it? Well, it’s a mixed bag honestly. Exploring is always fun and one of the main strengths, making sure to have only the right stuff equipped (how much food and water, clothing, weapons) so you can go on a haul is important, and that is where Conan Exiles works best. Fighting is okay. Like many other games, it feels like a simplified version of Dark Soul’s combat, but it’s a bit clunky and it can feel boring quickly – like in Skyrim. But hey, you can brutally dismember your enemies in various ways, so there’s that!

Weirdly enough, crafting is not the strong point of Conan Exiles. Or maybe it is to survival experts or Minecraft fans, but building a house is a very cumbersome task – you need to prepare each and every part starting from the foundation individually, and then you need to put it all together, which takes some time. And once that’s done, you sometimes need a tool or a contraption to build a tool to build something else …

So, is Conan Exiles the game for you? Hard to say. Do you like to run around naked? Do you like to explore, and can you stand combat that is a bit rough around the edges? And the most important question – do you have a degree in architecture and do you enjoy building that much you don’t mind the complex and a bit convoluted systems? If you scream yes to all of the above, welcome to the primeval and brutal lands of Conan Exiles. This mix of Ark and Minecraft for adults might be right up your alley!

Rabidgames is doubtful: That being said, if you’re not a fan of at least 50% of the above, you’ll get lost in Conan Exiles. There are games that feel more work than play, and this one is surely one of them; beneath the genitals and the gore, there’s plenty of work waiting. More work than fun at times. It still has plenty to offer, but when crafting turns into a chore, settlements and sometimes games shall remain unfinished.