Indietail – Outer Wilds

Exploration is one of those key features used by a lot of video games these days. Usually, you end up exploring an area for secrets, collectables and shortcuts, which – when done right – can be very satisfying and essentially encourage you to do it more. In today’s review, we’re talking about a game that is all about exploration and that doesn’t rely on any of those features but rather makes the player piece together all the different clues and information in order create a bigger picture of sorts. Today, we’re taking a look at Outer Wilds.

Developer: Mobius Digital
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Release Date: Jun 18th, 2020
Genre: Space, Exploration, Puzzle, Mystery, Adventure
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, XBOX 1, PS4
Copy was purchased.

In a distant Solar System, we are tasked with finding out clues about an ancient civilisation only to find ourselves in a time loop similar to Majora’s Mask and Minit. After 21 real-time minutes, the sun is bound to explode, leaving us with the mission of finding out why this is happening.

Why does this universe end?
What do the ancient Nomai have to do with this?
How can we stop it?

To do this, we set out to different planets, solve a variety of puzzles, translate scrolls and ancient scriptures, so that we can get closer to the truth, one step at a time.

The Reveal Trailer is probably one of my all-time favourite trailers!

This is where the game shines. You retain all of your information whenever you die or whenever you reset. Hence, at the start of every loop, you get to lift off from the launch pad on Timberhearth, after having seemingly just dozed off at the campfire.

By scanning and translating different scriptures on walls and ancient ruins, you find out more about this ancient civilisation of the Nomai, who at first seem quite noble and distant but later become rather relatable and “normal”. You end up learning more about different tribes of Nomai that all worked together for Science and that all lived on different planets after they crashlanded in this universe.

While the leads and clues may, at first, seem daunting and overwhelming, your ship log usually tends to help you out by telling you if there’s more to explore in certain areas. It also displays the clues, all linked together, hence giving you some sort of lead to explore, if you ever find yourself in trouble.

There are two “modes” of movement in this game. You either travel from planet to planet and manoeuvre around the planets’ surfaces with your small little ship. Or you explore by foot, relying on your jetpack to reach high places if the gravity allows, and scanning things using your transcriptor. When you have a rough landing, you have to repair certain parts of your ship, like its oxygen tanks, electrical systems, the landing gear and other ones that are essential for safe travels. When you travel on foot, on the other hand, you have to watch your health and oxygen but also be sure to not get stuck somewhere without fuel. This makes for some interesting mechanics as different planets come with different hazards and gravity levels. On top of that, you, at times, have to reach certain places before your oxygen supplies run out, hence adding a little bit of pressure to you.

The different planets all shine in their own way. While Brittle Hollow has a black hole at its centre and while Dark Bramble is an enigma of its own, Giantsdeep features high gravity and a very harsh climate that allows vortexes on its surface to lift your ship and even islands into the air. I could assure you that every single planet and planetary body features a unique experience and that every journey to different sites and locations feels unprecedented and adventurous! At least, that’s something I fancied in my playthrough. Since there is no set starting point for every planet, though, you have to figure every planet out yourself and understand its systems, although you should have plenty of times for that – being trapped in a time-loop gives you a lot of time to think, eh?

Making use of a time-loop mechanic gives every 21-minute long adventure a unique vibe, that I really dig. At first, I felt a certain rush to find out as much as possible in every single loop, but then I noticed that it’s alright to take a breather at times and to enjoy the views. After all, Outer Wilds is a charming and gorgeous game, featuring a great score, some lovely dialogues, and a lot of clues, secrets and easter eggs to find in the ruins of the “old world”.

The soundtrack, composed by Andrew Prahlow, gives this title a certain adventure-vibe that helped me enjoy the ride a lot better. Different places feature different tracks while some other tracks get played when you’re getting close to your inevitable death, creating a rather fluid and non-linear experience every time you venture out into the Outer Wilds.

I love the soundtrack. I love the graphics. I love the gameplay. I love the story.

In summary, I love Outer Wilds.

Outer Wilds created a novel experience for myself, even when it has some shortcomings here and there:

Your experience at the beginning can be somewhat slow, for instance, as you try to figure out how certain planets work, where you have to go, what you’re supposed to do. I enjoyed that, myself, but I’d be able to see how this would influence other people’s experiences and how it could bother others.

You don’t have a lot of directions given to you, although there are other astronauts on every planet that you can visit to ask them for “interesting places”. Based on where you land on a planet, you get to see different places to find out other clues. At times, this can mislead you into thinking that you found out everything about a planet, resulting in you seemingly “getting stuck”. At other times, you may just be wondering how an end-game location like the Hourglass Twins tie into the whole story and what you’re supposed to do with these “timed locations”.

Overall, I wouldn’t deem this too much of an issue though. By revisiting places and by making use of your ship log, you should be able to get “unstuck” in no time and figure out new leads whenever you try out a different location or find out a new piece of the puzzle.

Another issue that I found with the game is the fact that there are some issues in the PC version of it. Your ship can seemingly take way too much damage when bumping into certain objects and at other times, you may just die from a fall that you usually would make, which I found a bit frustrating at times. Bugs are, however, very few and very rare, so usually, this just left me in confusion and didn’t make me suffer too much.

Alas, my verdict is that Outer Wilds is an exceptional game that is worth checking out if you’re interested in a “true” exploration experience with a non-linear time-loop-based story. The presentation is just magnificent and charming, the story and the end of it are just more than grand, and I’m really glad about having played through it after 24.4 hours. That whole day that I spend in there was 100% worth it!

Cheers!

Indietail – Stories: The Path of Destinies

Not too long ago, we’ve taken a look at Omensight, a game made by Spearhead. Omensight combined a beautiful world and a lot of different characters with some cool mystery-solving mechanics and some insanely fun combat! This time around, we’re taking a look at its spiritual predecessor, Stories: The Path of Destinies! Strap on for another Indietail!

Developer: Spearhead Games
Publisher: Spearhead Games
Release Date: April 12th, 2016
Genres: Adventure, Action, RPG, Indie, Mystery
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Copy was purchased.

What is Stories: The Path of Destinies about?

In a world with anthropomorphic animal characters and floating islands, we’re taking control of the fox Reynardo, who retired from his brave adventures when his mother took her last breath. One day, the Empire is attacking our hometown in search of a book in our possession. We, the sole survivor of the royal assault, are escaping on our airship, we join the Rebellion and try to take on Isengrim III, the vicious toad emperor who is trying to use forgotten magic, ancient artefacts, and the elder gods who once destroyed the world to rise to power! And, well, it’s our duty to stop that from happening!

In its core, Stories is an isometric action-RPG with mystery elements. We have to solve different loose ends of the game’s story to find out how to stop Isengrim’s plan, who to trust and what exactly is going on. Just like Omensightm, Stories is based on replayability. As Reynardo reads the magical book, he finds out that it allows him to travel back to the same day upon death. With newly attained knowledge, we get to chose different options and make other choices to influence the outcome of the story.

But not always do different choices lead to different outcomes. Often, we need to find out information beforehand to actually influence the outcome of a different route, and alas we have a total of 24 different endings to discover, a whole bunch of levelling and fighting to do, and a whole bunch of characters to investigate.

Do we save our old friend Lapino, a goofy and sly rabbit who is currently being held hostage by the Empire, or do we ditch him in order to find the old artefacts that are capable of potentially sealing away the banished evil gods and defeat the emperor? The choice is yours!

A lot of the times, the story branches into different paths, resulting in a bunch of new areas to discover, information on lore as well as new dialogue options!

And not everything is as it seems. Who can we trust? Who is a traitor? Are the leaders of the Rebellion as trustworthy as we think they are? What about our old love, Zenobia, the Emperor’s daughter? Is there a way to reach out to her? And is Lapino really who we think he is? The story allows us to form our own fate and managed to surprise me over and over again with complex characters that actually change their minds or show their true colours when we go the right way.

There are about four choices in each path to make, all featuring two or three options that split the path into different branches. The branches usually end with either the world getting destroyed or you getting captured or killed, which then results in the book bringing you back in time where you can start all over again. There are four branches that reveal four truths, required to reach the final ending and the end of the game. These four truths are linked to Isengrim, Zenobia, Lapino and the ancient evil gods. When travelling back in time, your book leaves you with guidance, telling you how the choices are reflecting themselves in your future… though no future is set in stone yet as you get to play them yourselves and make a different choice at any point.

As far as combat goes, it is best describes as a simpler version of Omensight’s combat. You get to slash enemies with your sword, using a vast variety of swings and attacks, as well as abilities that you unlock through skills, counters and blocks. Using different materials, you get to upgrade your sword, adding bonus effects to it like fire damage or more attack speed. On top of that, you get to customize your character with different gems that grant you resistances or other passive effects. Overall, I felt like the combat is rather solid and a lot of fun to play. Spearhead Games learned a lot from Stories: The Path of Destinies and implemented it into Omensight which turned out to be a bit more difficult but also a lot more fun. So, I was quite satisfied with both games’ combat systems.

And then there is the world and the soundtrack: It’s beautiful… but that’s no surprise as Spearhead Games have proven themselves as a lovely studio that is very talented in world-building and game-making. The narration really adds more to the game, too! You could say that I’m a huge fan of Spearhead Games, especially as I just adore Omensight’s world and soundtrack. So it should be no surprise that I enjoyed Stories, though I’ve got to say that there is a weak point to Stories as well…

And that’s its cast of enemies:

Over time, as you go back and re-visit old areas, you’re presented with the same enemies over and over again. Of course, you find new enemy types over the course of the game and you get to fight stronger versions when you get stronger, but I never truly felt as if the game was challenging me a lot… as time went on, I struggled a bit more, but it usually was rather doable and never truly hard, so that was a bit of a downer. The combat is a lot of fun but I would have loved to see more variety in the cast of enemies that you’re facing.

But other than that, I couldn’t really find any issues with the game. It runs smoothly, the game’s plot, characters and the soundtrack are awesome, the combat is fun (though it could have been more challenging) and the exploration is quite neat as well. I highly recommend this game to any fan of well-made action-RPG games and for players who are interested in solving a mystery that involves the end of the world!

I hope you enjoyed this review! It’s been a while and I thought I’d publish it today, especially as this game is really good on top of being different from the other titles that I’ve reviewed so far.

I hope you’re having a wonderful day over there!

Cheers!

Indietail – The Haunted Island, A Frog Detective Game

Games allow us to slip into all kinds of roles that we would never head the chance to access in real life. That’s one reason why I like games. I love RPGs as you’re allowed to do whatever you want. I can be the support that decides whether or not a party-member lives or dies. I have the power to do so. I can be a knife-throwing gunslinger and travel from planet to travel to deliver cookies to my favourite Robo-waifu FailSafe (Destiny 2). In other games, I take care of an ecosystem and hunt down dragons and dinosaurs so that everyone is safe (Monster Hunter). Then there are also games where I’m the bad guy (duh.) and murder people because of me not being able to sleep (Party Hard) and other games where I solve the mystery of a murder that will lead to the world’s destruction (Omensight).

Games allow us to do all kinds of things. As a kid, I liked “Case Closed” for instance and dreamt of solving murders like him. And I liked frogs because frogs are quite cool. Have you ever wanted to be a frog? Have you ever wanted to solve cases? Have you ever wanted to be a frog detective? (rhetoric question) 

No? 

Well, in today’s Indietail, we’ll be taking a look at The Haunted Island, A Frog Detective where we can do just that! So hop in, as we discover a lovely and rather bizarre world of a game that really tickled my fancy!

In the first case of the Frog Detective series, we’re playing as the frog detective who’s just waiting to get another job. The phone rings, we pick up and the Supervisor has a case for us. Since Lobster Cop – the best detective of all time – was busy, it’s our turn to solve a mystery about a private island being haunted by a ghost! We’re the second-best detective after all! 

Developer: Grace Bruxner, Thomas Bowker, Worm Club
Publisher: worm club, SUPERHOT PRESENTS
Genres: Indie, Mystery, Adventure
Release Date: 23 November 2018
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was purchased.

Once we arrive at the scene, we have the opportunity to question everyone on the island and search for clues as to why the ghost scientists are on the island, where the ghost might be and whether or not there’s an actual ghost at all. During our time on the island, we’re able to search for clues and find items that we can trade in with other people in order to receive other times that are needed to solve the case. At our search for clues, we are also able to take care of a sloth’s mental health, help out a worried rat, have an interesting chat with the suspicious lobster, Larry, and, in the end, have a nice dance-competition with everyone on the island. 

It’s all rather light-hearted and cute. The art style and overall presentation is adorable and disturbing at the same time. Just look at everyone’s faces! Have you ever seen an otter wink? Well, me neither until now!

And while it’s fairly easy to beat the game and as the game looks rather simple, it’s definitely not a kids game for the sole reason of there being jokes that I don’t think would be appealing to kids. 

“You could have died.” – “Yeah, Haha.”

“I wanted to hire the world’s best detective!” – “Was Lobster Cop busy?” – “Yes.”

Frog Detective’s first case is rather amusing and carefree. The game feels like an overall breather from other games with a lot of actions, which I found quite nice. Frog Detective doesn’t need all those gimmicks, like voice acting and complex puzzles. It has got its own way of storytelling, its own humour and is able to take you in for a little journey on a haunted island. 

Now, to summarize it all, I’d say that I’d definitely recommend this game to everyone who’s got kids or who just wants to experience a weird world full of cheerfullness and weird humour. It only costs four bucks on Steam and you can beat it in less than an hour. I had a blast with the game and although short, I did have to stop here and there to just chuckle at some of the jokes.

The game definitely isn’t something for everyone but I kind of fell in love with this charming little gem, so there’s that. I’m definitely looking forward to playing the next games in the franchise!

Anyways, I wish you all a nice day and I’ll see you in the next post! 🙂

Omensight – Revisited and finished!

During my 24-hour stream, I played a lot of games. I played Destiny 2, Stardew Valley, League of Legends, Overwatch, Monster Hunter World, Dungreed, and a lot of other titles and among them… was Omensight. A title I’ve reviewed on my blog before. I wanted to play it on stream to showcase to some of the people that were watching, as it’s way too underrated. And while I did the review on it, already showcasing the game in a lot of ways, that may not be enough as it’s a lovely title and as nobody reads my blog (that’s more or less ironic, btw). 

WAR MASCHINE

So, I ended up playing it for about four hours during that stream before continuing the playthrough in another stream and then finishing it last Monday and 100%-ing it in yesterday’s stream. I had a blast playing it, especially since I just barely remembered the story’s ending and since I forgot who actually killed the Godless Priestess. In the end, it was really exciting and on my new computer, I was able to play it on the highest settings and really enjoy the fluidity of the combat system and the lovely colour-palette of the environment. There were also no issues with the camera controls anymore and while the “days” surely take a bit of time to complete, it’s not that bothersome as I actually had the time to do so. I was sitting there, wanting to play more of the game, and I realized that it’s the same thing with other games like the “The Legend of Zelda” series where you can’t always save (at least in some games if I remember correctly). So, those “flaws” aren’t right there anymore.

Back to the tree of life!

After I played through the story, I was able to collect other possible outcomes and eventually get to the alternative ending which was quite nice to play. Sadly, the final boss fight wasn’t as hard as I remembered, resulting in a bit of disappointment regarding the difficulty. The FINAL boss shouldn’t be easier than normal combatants and levels. Anyhow, that may be forgiven for the fact that the devs did so many things right in this game. The soundtrack, the presentation, the combat system, the characters, the voice acting, and the story were absolutely awesome! I really recommend the game (again, I guess).

Now, when I finished the game, I realised that I was only missing three more achievements, so that’s what the second part of this post is about:

Yeah, we’re hunting those secrets and stuff! Ludomir, thanks for helping me out, you drunk!

Achievement-Hunting

The last three achievements included Masterful DenialCompletionist, and the secret achievement Mario Wannabe

Completionist was awarded by completing all achievements while Mario Wannabe and Masterful Denial were a bit tricker. 

Mario Wannabe (obviously) requires that you jump on a lot of people’s heads. To be exact, you need to jump multiple times onto the four side-characters’ heads until they each gave you one or two special voice-lines regarding the fact that you’re jumping on their heads. Quite interesting. 

Our final fight against Voden! What shape is he gonna take?

Masterful Denial, on the other hand, required you to shoot a barrel thrown by a shark with another barrel. For this, I’d recommend using the “Delay of Fate” skill (slowing time for enemies) when a shark throws an explosive barrel at you and to grab a different explosive barrel and aim it right at him. Standing in a horizontal line from the shark is rather important, btw, as it’s hard to judge how the barrel’s flying if you’re in a weird angle. You get the achievement when they hit each other mid-air and explode. Quite glorious. To get the right set-up for this, I’d recommend going into Arc IV with Indrik as there are multiple sharks in a lot of areas with a lot of explosive barrels. 

The void is corrupting Yarbog’s temple!

This achievement took me quite some time to get but it was doable and it felt awesome when I finally got it.

In the end, I got to 100% Omensight, a great game, and I’m actually feeling a little bit proud of it, even if it’s not raising my average game completion rate. Oh well!

I hope you enjoyed this little look into The Gaming Journal. Have a nice day and drive safe!

Cheers!

Aw, sweet! We have our own statue in this town here! Let’s take a screenshot while the houses are still on fire. Yikes.

Indietail – Omensight

In today’s review, I’m talking about Omensight – a stylish third-person murder mystery action-adventure game with platforming elements and RPG aspects like “leveling, an interactive story, and character upgrades”. Dive into a story about intrigue, murder and treason as the Harbinger, a mythological creature that appears when the end of worlds is nigh!

Developer: Spearhead Games
Publisher: Spearhead Games
Genres: Action, RPG
Release Date: May 15, 2018
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One
Copy was purchased

But let’s talk about the story first. Omensight is the spiritual successor of Spearhead GamesStories: The Path of Destinies and tells you the story of the murder of the Godless-Priestess Vera and the destruction of the world Urallia by the hands of the dark god Voden. In the beginning, you witness the destruction of the world and are then teleported to the Tree of Life where you encounter the Witch. The Witch then explains to you that you need to relive this final day of Urallia and accompany four key-characters to find the culprit behind the summoning of Voden and the murder of Vera.

Ratika, my favourite character

This leads to a lot of time travelling as you’re about to solve this murder by reliving the same day over and over again. By experiencing the story from different angles, you’re able to find out about the murder and get hints at possible motives, alibis and suspects. This kind of reminded me of Ghost Trick – Phantom Detective where you hinder a group of killers from killing further victims after you already ended up as a ghost. Lovely!

The Harbinger

As for combat, a controller is recommended as you’re using a combination of heavy, slow attacks that can’t be blocked and light, fast attacks, as well as abilities and dashes. There’re a few combos that can be used as well as counter-attacks that empower your next attack when you’re successful in blocking enemy attacks and/or breaking through their lines. Every attack can be cancelled with your dodge-roll so that you’re not locked in any sort of attack-animation, which is a great feature. After not getting hit for a while, you’re gaining energy that can be used for special abilities. On top of that, you’re able to use enemies and objects in the area around you to destroy enemy hordes, which I found insanely fun.

It’s wicked fun to just combo your way through hordes of enemies, reaping through them with fast attacks, switching targets when they’re blocking, dashing around, dodging projectiles and other incoming attacks before you use some heavy attacks to finish off enemies or just grab and throw explodable barrels into enemies or into pillars that then fall onto enemies!

It all feels very fluid and intuitive combat-wise, although there’s still a learning curve as you need to time your attacks well and as you can get attacked from outside of your semi-locked camera-view. This often feels unfair but after a little bit of practice, you feel god-like which is quite fitting for your role as the Harbinger, the eyes and sword of Urallia. Sometimes enemies also use blocks or focus you instead of your companion but usually, you get the hang of it after a few tries, and you usually are able to find health potions in destructible objects scattered around the map.

While I didn’t really like Indrik all that much in the beginning, he at some point showed some interesting traits, leading to me actually kind of liking him. Just kind of.

The story is intense since you’re always getting new clues on the mystery of Vera‘s murder. Not every hint leads you into the right direction and since there’s a wide cast of characters from the emperor Indrik to the leader of the rebellion, Ratika, who’s receiving her powers from the might of music, you never know who it really could be! You have suspicions as the story proceeds but those get debunked eventually, leaving you clue-less from time to time so that you need to try out the same day from a different perspective, try out other dialogue-options and then find out more about the case. Sometimes the game feels like a TellTale game since you’re left with choices that have consequences, but since you’re able to start every day again from a different point of time, this feeling is kind of faint. The cast of characters is very interesting, as not even Indrik’s most loyal general, Draga, seems to be that loyal, as she wants to end the war with as few losses as possible, on both sides.

The Crimson Forest

What I didn’t like about the game, was mostly the fact that you’re not able to save a mission, leave the game, and continue from that point in time when returning. Some missions took me ten to fifteen minutes while others took me a lot longer due to unknown enemy-patterns and the fact that I sometimes just struggled with the game. I often died and then had to start anew from the checkpoints that are spread through the mission but when something comes up IRL, I had to quit, only to find out that you can’t continue a mission from the last checkpoint you reached. This kind of feels weird since you’re the mighty Harbinger who’s able to travel through time, but you’re not allowed to return to a checkpoint…

Another thing that I noticed is the fact that the camera-movement feels odd every now and then. You can move it a little on your own (hence it’s semi-locked) but sometimes pillars and other objects might get in your way. This is kind of solved in some areas where walls turn invisible but often it also happens that your view is blocked by some objects.

Other than that, I didn’t notice any other major flaws. The devs focused on the elegant presentation, a fabulous soundtrack, fluid and entertaining combat, and a great story with interesting characters. Hence, I recommend this game.

Anyways, cheers!

Note: This review is actually part of a series of shorter reviews at about half the size of my usual reviews. I’m trying out this style and compare its stats to another long review that comes out soon, to test out whether or not I should stick to longer more detailed reviews or shorter ones that are not only faster to produce but also faster to read.

Another Note: On Frostilyte‘s blog, I saw that little section with the infos about the dev studio, the publisher, the platforms, etc. and I found it quite neat, so I’m going to do that from now on as well. Check him out since he also publishes Indie Game Reviews, as well as other content! 🙂

This post is part of a contest/challenge called Blaugust! The goal is to post as much as possible and participants are awarded with different prizes depending on the goal they achieved. My aim is to post on all 31 days of August and if you’d like to know more about this “event”, you should check this post out.