G&G Reviews: Deus Ex GO

Reviewer: Michael Mendis

Developer: Square Enix Montréal

Publisher: Square Enix

Platforms: Android (reviewed), iOS

ESRB Rating: T (Teen)

 

Video game publisher Square Enix has an interesting series of mobile games that they have been creating over the last few years, making turn-based puzzle games themed around one of their pre-existing action franchises typically only seen on console or PC.  Last year I played Lara Croft GO, their Tomb Raider themed mobile game, and really enjoyed it, due to its well designed puzzles, engaging atmosphere, and the hidden collectibles that netted you some extra rewards.  When I heard that Deus Ex GO had come out earlier this year, I was excited to give it a shot.  Unfortunately, it seems that not all of Square Enix’s “GO” games are created equal.

From a story perspective, Deus Ex GO doesn’t have much to offer, particularly someone like me who has only a limited understanding of Deus Ex lore; in fact, you are expected to be familiar with the Deus Ex series in order to make sense of the barebones plot that is present in GO.  Playing as Adam Jensen (the main character of the recent Deus Ex games), you are tossed into a mission for Task Force 29, searching for a terrorist named Novak.  Not far into your mission, however, a hacker friend contacts you, and says that there may be more to Novak than meets the eye.  None of these characters receive much else in the way of further explanation or depth.   If you don’t already have an idea of who these characters are, tough luck; you just have to sit through their dialogue when they occasionally interrupt you at various points throughout the game.  When you reach the end of the mission, your two allies have differing opinions on how they want you to finish it, and you have to make a choice; the plot is so meaningless to the rest of the game, though, that the choice at the end felt equally pointless, lacking any sort of weight or impact on the player.

The goal of each level is to move Jensen from point to point along a branching dotted line until he reaches the finish.  Each stage has various obstacles to stop Jensen, from security guards, to robots, to automated turrets; if any of them kill Jensen, you start over from the beginning of the level.  The gameplay is strictly turn-based, meaning that enemies don’t move along the dotted line until you do; this gives the player the opportunity to stop and think about how to solve the puzzle.  Completing a level in the fewest steps possible nets you a gold rating, encouraging the player to plan each move carefully and replay levels they haven’t yet perfected.  Unfortunately, some of the levels (especially early on) are designed in such a way that you are all but forced to complete the level in a set number of steps, which detracts from the game’s replayability.

For the levels that don’t hold your hand in such a direct manner, the puzzle design vacillates between clever and tedious (and occasionally manages to be both at the same time).  On the one hand, there are a good variety of enemies and other hazards to overcome, as well as a handful of powerups you can use to complete the challenge; in some levels you’ll hack turrets to take down enemies, while in others you’ll use camouflage to sneak your way past guards.  On the other hand, you’ll often find yourself pacing back and forth between two points in order to get a robot to move into the right position, which feels like a chore rather than, well, fun.

In light of Square Enix’s previous entry in its mobile puzzle series, Lara Croft GO, Deus Ex GO is not only inconsistent, but disappointing as well.  Lara Croft didn’t have any of these design errors; on top of that, LC features hidden treasures in each level and unlockable outfits, whereas Deus Ex lacks any such extras.  If there’s one extra feature that helps DE GO stand out from its predecessor, it’s the ability to create and share your own levels with the community.  This is a really neat feature that works well with puzzle games, and one that would certainly be welcome in any future GO titles.

As a whole, Deus Ex GO is a shallow experience.  While it earns good marks for the planning that is needed to perfect each level and the ability to create and share levels with the community, it isn’t enough to overcome the dull gameplay and the half-hearted attempt at a story.

 

OVERALL SCORE: D

G&G Reviews: ReCore

Reviewer: Michael Mendis

Developers: Armature Studio, Comcept

Publisher: Microsoft Studios

ESRB Rating: T (Teen)

Platforms: Xbox One (reviewed), PC

 

Having recently finished ReCore, the new third-person shooter from developers Armature Studio and Comcept, I find myself of two minds when I think about this game.  In some ways, ReCore is a lot of fun, offering a well polished and entertaining experience; in other ways, it’s a shallow game that disappoints on multiple levels.  So let’s break it down and look at exactly what makes this game both good and bad at the same time.

The story is set in the distant future; natural disasters have wreaked havoc on Earth, and humanity has set its sights on another planet, one they’ve named New Eden, as their next home.  Unfortunately, the planet is still mostly sand and rock, and needs to be terraformed in order to be permanently habitable.  That’s where you come in; you play as Joule Adams, one of the crew responsible for making sure the terraforming process runs smoothly (and daughter to one of the most prominent scientists of the whole project).  When Joule wakes up from cryosleep, however, she find that things haven’t gone according to plan; humanity had created Corebots (machines made up of a large spherical AI core that are placed into metal frames) to prepare the planet, but most of them have gone rogue, and New Eden isn’t as far along in its transformation as it should be.  Now it’s up to Joule and her friendly Corebot buddy Mack to save the day.

It’s an intriguing premise, but the story itself falls flat.  Despite the fact that there aren’t many characters in the game, none of them, Joule included, receive enough development to be interesting, so none of the key dramatic moments have any weight.  The game attempts to add intrigue via audiologs scattered throughout the game world, but the backstory they provide isn’t particularly compelling, and thus fails to bring the overall narrative to life.

If the storytelling doesn’t live up to its potential, the game’s visual presentation helps make up a little bit for it.  ReCore’s art style is quite beautiful; while the planet itself consists entirely of brown rocky cliffs and sand, the man-made structures and robots dotting the landscape add spots of vibrant color that stand out against the rest of the environment.  The game’s various dungeons are also bursting with brilliant blues, greens, reds, and yellows.  While there are some rough edges (many pieces of the environment pop into view late, and the game can have a rather fuzzy look at times), ReCore is an attractive game overall.

The actual gameplay is just as mixed as the rest of the experience.  I’ll start with the good, and there’s plenty to like, thanks to the game’s highly polished controls.  Joule controls very smoothly as you dash across the open desert, scale deserted buildings, and engage in combat with enemy robots.  Choosing you Corebot companions becomes an important mechanic partway through the game; over the course of your adventure you discover new friendly cores as well as new frames, each with their own combat stats as well as traversal abilities that let you explore new places in the game world. Since you can only have two Corebots with you at any given time, you’ll need to select the right combination for the task in front of you.

ReCore’s combat also has some interesting game mechanics that keep you on your toes.  Joule’s weapon, an automatic laser rifle, can switch between firing different colored lasers, and matching the color of your laser to the color of the enemy Corebot will deal a lot more damage.  Things can get hectic when you have half a dozen enemies on screen all with different colors, forcing you to stay moving, maintain situational awareness, and pick your targets wisely.  Finally, when you’ve weakened an enemy Corebot you have the chance to extract its core with your grappling hook; extracting a core will leave you vulnerable to other enemies for a few seconds while you pull it out, but if you succeed you’ll gain a different kind of upgrade material for your friendly bots than you would if you had just blown the enemy up.

All of this comes together nicely in the optional dungeons spread throughout the game.  Each one consists of special platforming courses or combat arenas, and completing additional tasks (find the hidden key, shoot the switches, finish in a set amount of time) will yield more rewards at the end of the dungeon.  These sections are where ReCore shines brightest, presenting the player with challenges that require you to master the game’s mechanics, and offering incentives to replay them and perfect each run.

But despite all that the gameplay has going for it, there are plenty of noticeable flaws as well.  One of the first things you’ll note about the game are the long load times when transitioning between different areas of the game.  Even though the game has been patched since launch to reduce the load times, they’re still annoyingly long; even worse, the only place you can switch out which friendly core is in which frame is at your base, meaning that anytime you need to make that change, you’ll suffer two long load times: one to teleport to the base, and another to get back to the region you were in before.  And as you discover new regions you’ll find yourself having to do more and more teleporting, which means more and more time wasted in front of loading screens.

The combat has its own disappointments.  While Joule’s weapon can switch between laser colors, she still only has one weapon, best used at mid-range, which leads the combat to feel somewhat monotonous at times; gameplay would have been more interesting had there been a selection of weapons to choose from, like a shotgun or a sniper rifle.  Joule doesn’t even have a melee ability, meaning that all battles require the same strategy of keeping enemies at arms length and hitting them with laser fire until they fall.  Each of your friendly Corebots has a unique special attack for combat, but none seem particularly more effective than others.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment, though, is how the final section of the game plays out.  It feels like the developers ran out of narrative justification for the player to explore the surrounding environment before completing the main story, and so the solution they came up with was to turn the last area into a series of dungeons, and the only way to access them...is to find and complete a whole bunch of the optional dungeons.  On the one hand, the game’s dungeons are a lot of fun; on the other hand, they all tend to run together and become monotonous after you’ve been powering through them for hours, especially when the biggest reward for completing a bunch of dungeons is just having access to more of them.  And when you’ve actually finished all that you need to and beat the final boss, the story ends rather abruptly; there just isn’t really a payoff for the effort you put into completing the game.

To add insult to injury, upon finishing the main story, I realized that there were places on the map that I simply couldn’t access.  It turns out, one of the Corebot frames that appeared in advertisements (and indeed in the cover art at the top of this very review) isn’t in the game at all, and without it, certain places can’t be reached.  It seems the developers were unable to finish everything they set out to do, and cut things from the game without giving any signal to consumers; perhaps we will see it later on as new content for the game, but if that’s the case, we’ll probably have to pay extra.

At the end of the day, it’s hard not to feel disappointed with ReCore, even though there were times when I had a lot of fun while playing it.  Plenty of effort was put into making the game feel smooth and polished, and the game’s dungeons provided some neat challenges; nevertheless, it seems that the creators bit off more than they could chew, and wound up with a product that feels rushed and incomplete.  They’re clearly a talented group of people, so hopefully they’ll be able to learn from their mistakes and produce a real gem the next time around.

 

OVERALL SCORE: C-

G&G Reviews: One Night Ultimate Werewolf

Reviewer: Stuart Holden

Developer: Bezier Games

Publisher: Bezier Games

 

One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a multiplayer hidden identity board game for 3-10 players.  Each game lasts about ten minutes and consists of two teams: the Village team versus the Werewolf team.  The purpose of the Werewolf team is to be “undiscovered” by the Villagers throughout the entire game play, until everyone is required to reveal their character’s identity at the very end. If the Werewolves are able to do this, they win, but if the villagers can figure out even who just one of the wolf players is and successfully eliminate them, then the Villagers win.  That means that there’s a lot of bluffing in this game; the wolves can’t say out loud who they are, and often times will pretend to be a villager in order to keep their identity safe.

At the start of the game, each player is randomly given a character card from a shuffled deck. That player is allowed to look at their card, but not allowed to show anyone else. Then all players are required to close their eyes, and a designated player reads a turn sequence for specific players to do certain actions while everyone else has their eyes closed. For example, “All Werewolves open their eyes and look for other Werewolves”. This command is required during game play in all versions of it, so that all Werewolves know who their fellow teammates are without the other players knowing. Then other players follow with actions including: being able to look at another player’s character card without them knowing, or swapping two other player’s cards or trading another player’s character for your own, meaning that you could very well end up on another team.

There is a large pool of characters available in the game, more than can be used for a single playthrough; different ones can be picked and inserted as well as removed to make each game different, because every character has it’s own sets of rules/abilities. Not all characters are used at once in a single game; only as many are needed per players playing.

There are two phases during the game: Nighttime and Daytime. Nighttime is when players are required to close their eyes and only open them when it is their turn to use their special ability while everyone else has their eyes closed. After everyone in the required turn sequence does their “secret” action, everyone one opens their eyes and Daytime begins.

During Daytime, everyone opens their eyes and has a few minutes to argue over who was who. The Villagers will try to figure out who the Wolves are, and the Wolves will pretend that they are actually Villagers. When the time limit runs out; everyone will point to an another player in the game that they want to eliminate. The goal of the Villagers at this point is to team up and eliminate at least one Wolf. Majority vote in most circumstances means that that player is eliminated. Then everyone flips over their cards to determine if the eliminated player is indeed on the Wolf’s team. If at least one member on the Wolf’s team is killed, the Villagers win; if not, the Wolves are victorious.

So overall, I think this game does pretty well against the others of its genre, such as Mafia and Avalon. It seems very balanced, compared to Mafia in particular; in that game, one side (the Mafia) has a distinct advantage, while in One Night it’s much closer (though perhaps the Villagers have a slight advantage here).

One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a pretty short game that doesn’t involve setting up a lot of game pieces. In fact, I would almost argue that One Night is like a party game, due to the number of players, the short length, the small amount of of physical pieces involved, and the heavy emphasis on social interaction. It’s nice to have games like this alongside longer, more in-depth games, as more people can find something that appeals to them.

There’s a free app for the game you can use to handle the narration if you want!

There’s a free app for the game you can use to handle the narration if you want!

So overall, I think this is a pretty good game. It’s well designed gameplay-wise, as well as in the minimal physical construction of the game. And it’s moderately priced in most stores too, so that’s a plus.

Thanks for stopping by and praying. Look forward to more articles by Gospel & Gaming on our website.

 

Overall Score: B+

 

Stuart Holden is a volunteer with Gospel & Gaming.