Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption (PC) Review

Developer: Dark Star | Publisher: Another Indie || Overall: 7.5/10

Personally, I have very little interaction with the “Soulslike” genre.  I know what Dark Souls is, but never had a chance to play the series.  Games that pride themselves on being hard aren’t necessarily my thing, but I will dabble and see how far I can get sometimes.  Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption is a boss-rush “Soulslike” that feels like you started playing right at the end of a game and missed about 20 hours of gameplay.

Since Sinner has been designed as a boss-rush, it relies heavily on the gameplay of its bosses, how they look, and what skill set you are given.  As the title of the game implies, each of these bosses are influenced by Biblical references.  Since I know nothing about any of it, it may as well have been based off the Wikipedia page about the seven deadly sins.  All I know is that the bosses are all very interesting to look at, and a big pain in the fucking ass.

All together there are 8 bosses, two of which I gave two hours to exclusively. I tried the others to see what they looked like, but decided to commit to the two I thought I could beat.  One boss I thought I beat, but she ended up turning into a new boss with full health, so fuck that.  The other guy I beat, but the game allows you to reverse your progress and now it’s like I didn’t even beat him.  Even though it says the boss will recover, it didn’t explicitly explain I would have to beat him again to progress, so I fucked up there.  Additionally, each boss has a little lore piece that is a bit interesting, and you can kind of piece together a greater narrative that is going on.

Each boss will require a “sacrifice” of your stats or equipment to enter and try to beat the boss inside.  This is a “leveling-down” system that will layer these sacrifices as you beat more bosses.  Though beating a boss also gets you stats, you’re inevitably going to be trading off stuff you have for unknown prizes.  This demands you to plan out your boss progression and figure out which bonuses or stats you need to beat certain bosses before giving them up; you can’t just beat what you think is easy now.  So, in this context, it makes sense why they allow you to have a boss recover; you can gain back stats to beat another boss, then go back and beat the original boss, though this may make it more complicated depending on what other debuffs you have gathered since then.

I would say the graphics are pretty. Though much of the game is very gray, it is an obvious design choice to make it look this way to have more of an ancient/religious context.  The main character is essentially a blank avatar without a personality, and the areas you fight in lack detail outside of their functional level design.  The bosses are very creative-looking as the emphasis focuses on them.  It is unfortunate other artistic aspects of the game seem to have suffered, though the music is okay as well.

I had some personal problems with how the gameplay works in general.  It takes a while to remember which buttons do what since there is absolutely nothing other than bosses to practice on.  There is one pack of enemies that spawn to help you get acquainted with the controls, but they are only around for a few minutes.  The bosses killed me about fifty times before I even learned there was a run button; previously I was just using the dodge button over and over to get out of the way.  There’s something to say with having filler in a game; it helps you learn how to play and get familiar with the controls before a difficult challenge.

The character has a sword and shield or 2-handed sword option for melee attacks, and a spear/fire bomb for range attacks.  The range attacks don’t do much damage, but the spear can be used to stumble a boss at the right time.  My biggest problems are with the bosses’ hit boxes.  You have to get right into a boss’s asshole before your sword will connect, and it is endlessly frustrating to be swinging 3 times an inch away from where you need to be and make no hits.  Many of the bosses have cheap abilities or deal extra damage at times which require you to run away or hide behind something, and this can add to the strategy, frustration, or both.

I would be remiss to not comment on the release of the title and the “controversy” around it.  Initially this was to be released on Steam, but the developers made a deal with Discord, who opened up their own storefront recently, to give an exclusivity window.  As one would now expect, the Steam version got delayed into next year, but it is currently available through the Discord store.  I don’t personally have a problem with this as it is something you see on consoles all of the time.  It is a new ripple in the PC field, as there isn’t much of a competition between Steam or any other non-publisher-specific storefront.  Inevitably I think it is a good thing for developers, but probably a wash for consumers… unless you hate Steam.

While I technically like this game, I don’t really want to keep playing it.  Games that make me yell “what the fuck!” or grunt and groan don’t often stick around.  I can only enjoy pounding my head against a wall for so long.  If you like this sort of experience, Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption may be up your alley.

 

Legrand Legacy: Tale of the Fatebounds (PC) Review

Developer: SEMISOFT | Publisher: Another Indie || Overall: 8.5/10

If you’ve never thought a developer, naming itself a dick joke, could make a faithful, competent, and actually fun “JRPG” then I’ve got a surprise for you.  And it’s in my pants.  Legrand Legacy: Tale of the Fatebounds coins itself as a “love letter” to JRPGs with a “fresh take” on turn-based combat.  In practice, it’s like jerking off JRPGs of the early PS1 and early PS2 eras and blowing their collective loads all over your PC’s hard drive.

During high school I became quite a big JRPG player and it has persisted until now.  Final Fantasy, Breath of Fire, Xenosaga, Persona, Legend of Dragoon, Chrono Trigger/Cross, Enchanted Arms, Star Ocean, Unlimited SaGa, Lufia, the list goes on.  I’ve kept up with my personal interest of JRPGs, exploring the Wild Arms series more recently, but its been a good four years now since I’ve really stuck with one through the end.

Legrand Legacy: Tale of the Fatebounds takes you back to specific time periods of console JRPG gaming.  Think of all of the titles that are released just as a new console comes out, with developers trying to get their first JRPGs out quickly; they are less about doing something new and exciting, but more about the basics of the genre and telling a fun story.  Legrand Legacy hammers this feeling right on the head, and while it’s admittedly a better-looking game than you might be used to from those time periods, there are so many callbacks baked-in from past titles.  So much so, that you just get a nostalgia overload for gaming mechanics being combined in one place and seeing it all just work out becomes a fun exercise in pointing out what came from where.  Practically every gaming mechanic can be referred back to another game, and while there are some modern sensibilities, such as a quest log for sidequests, nothing particularly “degrades” from making you feel like you’re playing a JRPG from the era it hearkens back to.  And, of course, the characters are also of very attractive design.  They really thought of everything!  Just don’t hump the mattress too hard, friends.

The biggest accomplishment for Legrand Legacy is that it is actually enjoyable, despite not really solving any of the problems JRPGs from that time period have in today’s gaming environment.  Combat is the biggest gameplay aspect; the battles are a bit slow, but you’re not “waiting” as much as you might be used to in this genre.  Turns are more phase-oriented, but a turn-order is not completely ignored.  The biggest efficiency increase is allowing for all melee attacks to execute at the same time, with spells “channeling” and being cast after melee attacks.  Most spells are channeled, while some will cast before melee attacks.  Melee attacks are also allowed to interrupt enemy spells, but you’ll have to use the Formation mechanic to prevent that from happening to your characters too.  Your “front row” is best served for melee characters, while the “back row” is typically better for casters/ranged.  Although enemy spells can still interrupt your back row, you are more reliably able to cast spells there.  There is also a slight stat re-balancing from placing a character in a certain row, reflected in having less attack but more defense in the back row, and the opposite in the front row.

You are allowed three active characters during battle, but are able to switch them out like in Final Fantasy X.  I’ve always sung the high praises of FFX being the best traditional turn-based system since it opens the ability to use all of your characters during a fight rather than only being able to switch out of battle.  It always annoyed me when I’d have so many characters but didn’t have any reason to use them.  Though, in Legrand Legacy, when switching characters from the “Reserve” they are able to act in the same turn as well, but may need to move from the front/back row to properly work for your strategy, which does cost a turn.

The major aspect of defeating enemies is the Persona-like elemental weakness/strength attribute system where using particular attacks/spells deal more or less damage.  Although not as intuitive/fast-paced as Persona is, Legrand Legacy‘s spell-casting system, known as “Grimoire,” is akin to Chrono Cross with no mana cost and assigning the skills to particular slots.  You can use your Grimoire skills as often as you like, with no cooldown or mana cost, and their effectiveness mostly relies on the enemy’s weakness/strengths.  Similarly, items are assigned to slots and you’re not able to use your whole item list, forcing you to strategize about the item spread.  Grimoire heals are not particularly overpowered, actually healing less than items, so the decision between attacking and healing, and how to heal is a thing.  This isn’t typically a dynamic that is present in JRPGs, at least in my experience, since it tends to be an out-of-battle-only mana-management exercise.  In Legrand Legacy, however, the only way to heal out of battle is by using items, which are all percentage-based, giving them longevity in their usefulness.  Learning of new Grimoire spells is reliant on the way you build your characters with stats as they level; while they basically force you to go in a particular direction, how you get there is up to you.  Character builds are intentionally not diverse as a result, but having control over the path allows you to aim for particular spells before others.  I have yet to see a dick-themed spell, but anything is possible late-game.

The combat interface is reminiscent of Xenosaga in a sense, while being as functional as a typical Final Fantasy game.  Unfortunately, that means you menu hunt a bit more than you feel like you should, and it would have been nice to add “shortcuts” to your favorite spells on the main interface layout rather than having to go two levels to repeat the same skill over and over.  Also, for some god-awful reason, they decided to allow for the directional buttons to confirm your choice of spells after highlighting them, which I constantly accidentally hit since the Xbox360 controller’s D-pad is ass.  This made me find out there is no way to customize any controller inputs and stop that from happening.

Most actions require the same QTE game to be played for each character, a call-back to Legend of Dragoon and Final Fantasy VIII to a certain extent.  There is a circular wheel with a quadrant highlighted; if your dial is timed to land inside of the highlighted quadrant then you are good, but getting it in a small sliver allows for a “Perfect” execution of the skill, allowing for bonus damage or a lesser chance of being interrupted if it is a spell.  While it is simple, quick, and not particularly annoying to execute, it does demand that you are actively paying attention during an entire fight.  If you don’t play the QTE game or fail it, your characters will all miss.  One of the niceties of this genre was being able to plug in all of your commands then walk away for a couple seconds and do something, but in this case it’s not something that happens.  Related to your normal attacks, your characters will slowly build up an AP gauge which allows for a special attack that deals devastating damage.  The gauge will only fill up based on offensive attacks, so if your healer is just healing all of the time, she won’t gain anything.  The numbers that fly around for damage are also a bit confusing because there are a variety of colors that can appear, and since many attacks go off at the same time, you don’t know which numbers belong to who.  Considering the weakness system is important to master, this lack of information doesn’t make it easy.

The AP gauge is important to fill up before hitting up a boss, which can be accomplished while you are in the middle of a grind.  Yes, unfortunately, you will have to grind for just about an hour in each dungeon before fighting the end boss, and that’s after figuring out the puzzles.  There is also a bonus boss in each zone, which is usually about equivalent in difficulty to the story boss, but for the sake of convenience you should defeat it first since you may instantly leave a dungeon in the course of the story.  There aren’t any random fights, but it’ll be a challenge running away from the black eyeballs that represent enemy encounters in the dungeon.  They respawn very quickly while you’re in the same zone, so it hardly seems relevant that the fights aren’t random.  It’s also very hard or impossible to avoid them all, so the point of having generic black shadow eyeball enemies on the map seems a bit redundant.  There are also extra sidequests, maybe one or two per town, that will grant you XP after finishing a task, so it can help with bypassing the grind.  I’m not particularly against grinding since you really get into the intricacies of the battle system, so the “about an hour per dungeon” seems just enough to get acquainted with the area and master challenges the enemies present before moving on.  Plus, the bosses will cut your dick off and you’ll get a game over if you don’t grind, so there’s that.

The inventory system takes on a Star Ocean-type crafting system, but for weapons and items rather than cooking.  You’ll collect all sorts of loot from enemies, who never drop actual money, but only items you can sell.  This loot can then be used to craft healing items, offensive items, and weapons.  Encumbrance is an actual thing in this game, so you won’t be able to run around and grind infinitely — you’ll have to visit a town and store away all of your unused items at a vendor.  Unfortunately, the game does not allow you to access your storage for crafting purposes and you have to have it in your actual inventory to use for crafting.  You’re still able to walk really slow while encumbered, so instead of picking and choosing, it’ll be less effort to just take everything out, craft your shit, then throw everything back in.  The same goes for weapons/gear/dildos — you’ll only be crafting these items and nothing will drop in the field.

While the cutscenes look like shit, the in-game art-style is actually quite faithful to late PS2 visuals, most notably Final Fantasy XII.  However, they go for a “pre-rendered background” look like you would have seen in, say, Final Fantasy VIII.  Instead of CG, they exclusively use painted backgrounds with some in-game art/elements overlayed on top.  The painted backgrounds all look very nice, but depending on the perspective it looks way too obvious that the main character, Finn, isn’t actually “touching” the ground; the shadows the character gives are also a dead giveaway on the dungeon/world maps.  The purpose of pre-rendered backgrounds were to supplement the art to make it not look as crappy all of the time, but they seem to have gone too far in that direction and replaced many things you would typically see “in-game” with the paintings.  This is so they didn’t have to spend time modeling things like furniture or barrels.  There is some exploring of towns, but they are segmented into selectable areas, reminiscent of Unlimited SaGa, though I’m sure there might be a more comprehensive analogy to make here.  The areas are physically explored in similar fashion to Final Fantasy VIII, with a static camera.  Music and sound effects are also quite faithful to the genre, with the music being a highlight, in terms of variety, as each zone has its own song.  You’ll also hear voices of the characters during battle.

The main character of the story, Finn, looks like Ryu from Breath of Fire, with blue hair, a “secret past,” and “loss of memory” to boot.  And probably the same 10 inch dick!!!!  DAMN!!!  However, I was surprised he wasn’t a silent protagonist.  Unfortunately, he breaks his character too often to be believed as a memory-less blank slate like they initially pitch him to be, and I wish that they went the silent protagonist route instead.  The script dialogue tends to overstay its welcome a lot more often than I’d like — typically I get the point within two or three dialogue boxes, but then they continue the conversation on the same point for another five, or ten dialogue boxes.  Perhaps it has something to do with the English translation as the game is being developed in Indonesia?  I can’t tell.  There are no voice overs either, which may or may not be good, considering they could have been forced to cut back on the dialogue if they had to actually go through and record all of the extraneous dialogue that seems to happen more often than I’d like.  Most of the other characters are designed to look like anime characters and have “live 2D” reaction pop-ups to signify who is talking.

The story itself feels more like a western fantasy “prophecy” story, with some southeastern Asian designs to enemies, which isn’t completely unheard of in the JRPG genre, but it is a bit of a diversion from what I expected it to be originally.  Generally, the idea is that the female character Aria is some sort of chosen one and has to assemble a group of random people to become the “Fatebound” and stop a Hell-like dimension full of evil Fur Bolgs from invading their world and to stop all wars.  Perhaps this is reminiscent of the first Wild Arms‘ story, but I’m unsure at this point.  Finn, the “player character” is essentially relegated to side-character in the beginning of the story rather than being the main influential character which is perhaps reminiscent of FFX where Tidus is just “along for the ride” but ends up taking a very important role later.  At about 15 hours in, the dynamic is still unchanged, but the story hasn’t delved into Finn’s forgotten past, so it could go any direction at this point.  I suppose as an Easter Egg of sorts, the lead game designer inserted himself as a traveling information guide, telling you about the city you’re in and introducing more lore outside of the confines of the story itself.  I’m not entirely sure if this is vain or not, but I suppose it may as well happen.  He keeps giving Finn some nuts, and I’m pretty sure it’s another cleverly disguised dick joke.  Randomly popping up are plenty of what I assume are Kickstarter name lists/wanted posters/character names or whatever, cause they look like internet names that don’t fit in the universe.

Legrand Legacy: Tale of the Fatebounds is squarely aimed at millennials who grew up on these sorts of games and are willing to dive back into it for one last romp before they go impotent.  I’ve definitely written way more than I ever thought I would for this game, and considering it’s something I actually want to finish, I’ll be putting a lot more time into it.  There will perhaps be a postmortem on the story at a later point if it ends up being something worth talking about.

 

Original Journey (PC) Review

Developer: Bonfire Entertainment | Publisher: Another Indie || Overall: 2.0/10

What’s up, folks? Ever wanted a game where you play as a yam with guns or some shit? Have I got the fix for you!

Alright, so in Original Journey (“original title do not steal”) you’re a plant thing in an exo suit on a mission with dozens of others to save your planet. For plot device reasons you’re not told why you’re on the planet Shadow (“original name do not steal”) aside from these green crystals, which, incidentally, a vibrant green object in an otherwise monochrome game. These things, you see, heal your folk and planet, or something. I don’t know. Anyway, a bunch more stuff happens that doesn’t even make sense in any context, like you needing to get monster teeth to make a translation program for your droid, or talking to a dude with amnesia that gives you an emerald-looking thing called a Chaos Key (“original concept and name do not steal”) and some schematics only your race could ever utilize. I don’t understand who’s writing this, or if it’s a translation error, but the story really needs, like… a spit shine, at least. It’s rough, and, at points: totally inane.

Gameplay flows like this: you’re at base, where you get quests, deal with buying and selling, swap out equipment and prepare for your next run. Then you talk to this TV thing, and from there you pick where to go to start a chain of themed levels. As you complete each level, you’re taken back to decide if you return home or do a special event. Dying on a level means you forfiet all your loot, which stays there, not unlike Dark Souls or Shovel Knight, until you come back to reclaim it or die again. It says “procedurally generated levels”, but each level is more of an arena, and there’s not a lot of randomization in those or enemies. In fact, it’s more of an RPG with some roguelike elements than it is a real roguelike. In the few hours I played the forest section, I saw most of the same levels and elements, sometimes specific ones, over and over again. Anyway, you work toward your next story or side quest, come back home, rinse, repeat. There is some progression, like better equipment or higher character level even with death, yadda yadda, but that’s about it.

Okay, so, gather round. Scout’s honor sort of moment here. Alright, you listening? Here’s the thing: I didn’t finish this game. I couldn’t, even though I feel bad about it and kind of wanted to, and there’s a very, very good reason why.

So, this game’s a roguelike, and if you’re reading random game reviews on a humor website, you probably know what that means: death. Lots of it. Any good roguelike will force you to die. There’s plenty of roguelikes, both good and bad, and there’s lots of traits that can influence an opinion in weighing them against each other. One thing good roguelikes almost universally have in common, though, is good controls. Original Journey does not have good controls.

This title’s a sidescroller, and your character’s armament is limited to a suit (with a chip in it; think socketing items in Diablo or Path of Exile), a left weapon and a right weapon. Most of the weapons are guns, but for some reason you have no ability to aim these fucking things. Your vegetable’s aim sways back and forth at approximately an upward 45 degree angle, making anything with less spread than a shotgun annoying to use. Aiming directly at an enemy involves walking right next to them and fucking pulling the trigger. This means that often times, for air enemies, you’re jumping constantly in the air in order to do any good. Weapons have limited ammo, so often times you’ll be wasting most of your ammo trying to knock some bullshit out of the sky. This gets worse later, with enemies hanging out toward the bottom of the goddamn screen. WHY? WHY DO THIS? WHY THE FUCK CAN’T I AIM AT HIM? I HAVE TWO FUCKING GUNS AND I CA-

Excuse me.

So, shooting and aiming is already a problem, but it’s exacerbated by the design of the terrain in general. Many levels are oblong asteroid-looking hunks of shit with enemies on them. Considering our aiming problem, often times you will have to jump over enemies that are below your aim and attack from the opposite direction, entirely due to how your character holds a gun. Add on to this random terrain that blocks your shots and you have a REALLY GOOD FUCKING WAY TO GET MY BLOOD PRESSURE UP. FUCK.

They got these turrets that you can place two of each level, but they are just so dumb. The normal ones just sort of shoot randomly in the direction they are facing. The laser ones that you unlock next only seem better because they shoot through targets, including the stupid terrain obstacles.

Technically speaking, the game is fine. I didn’t experience any bugs, only “features” that were intended.

To repeat: I feel bad for not going through the whole game, but it just wasn’t worth the time. I know developing games takes work, but when you charge 11.99 for it, well, you invite criticism. There’s a multitude of better games to play instead, ones with plots that are fun, or gameplay that isn’t frustrating, some of them even being free. Play one of those instead. This one, in some ways, feels more like an inside Sonic the Hedgehog fandom joke attached to a random prototype game.