Reviews

Playstation Plus - May 2017 Headlined by: Tales from the Borderlands

Fri 5th May 2017 - 10:55pm : General

Playstation 4

 Tales from the Borderlands

Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Originally Released: November 2014

The headline attraction this month is Telltale’s ‘Tales from the Borderlands’ series - all five episodes ready for our enjoyment. Now, if you have played a Telltale game then you have some idea what to expect here. For those who have not, then I’ll try to summarize quickly - Tales is an adventure game where the story is constantly moving forward but occasionally you will be tasked to make decisions and dialogue options.

Think a mixture of a point-and-click and a game like Heavy Rain. Occasionally you will have to perform QTE in order to avoid being hit or something and they are designed to make sure you are paying attention to the scenes. The scenes themselves can be fairly lengthy in between regaining control of your character. Telltale games will never challenge your gaming skills but they will challenge your personality.

The story is based on Pandora, a familiar sight to those who have played the Borderlands games. It takes place after the events of Borderlands 2. Throughout the game, you switch perspectives between two characters - Rhys, an employee of Hyperion who is screwed out of a promotion by his nemesis Vasquez, who is voiced by the always wonderful Patrick Warburton, and Fiona, a con artist.

While I won’t go too much into the details of the story - since the game mostly stories you should experience it yourself if you can - the writing is wonderful. Tales from the Borderlands is a funny game and works wonderfully within the universe of the Borderlands. The voice acting is superb too with a cast that boasts such names as the aforementioned Patrick Warburton, Troy Baker, Laura Bailey and Nolan North.

One of the main gimmicks of the game is the fact you only have a short time to make dialogue options as well as important decisions. You are not given a lot of time to weigh your options and decide the best course of action. I, personally, like this - it means going with your gut and having to live with the consequences. I also hate it for the same reason, since even the littlest of decisions could have consequences. Characters will remember what you did and said - it can pay dividends in future episodes or it can come back to bite you. Only time will tell.

Some might dislike the Telltale style of game though and the game will not change their mind but for those who like a story-driven game like this - Tales of the Borderlands is wonderful and definitely a good addition to the PlayStation Plus lineup.

Alienation

Developer: Housemarque
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Originally Released: April 2016

Alienation is an Isometric Twin-Stick Shooter that has up to four player co-op. The story is generic as they come, aliens are taking over and you are a super soldier tasked with killing them all.

The game is a bit bland when playing solo - there are a lot of enemies and it becomes a slog cutting through them all. Borderlands-esque weapons and upgrade systems make things more interesting but to really get the most out of this game you should definitely play with buddies. Online co-op is supported but an update after release added local co-op so get your beers around and drink some friends and have a good time!

It may not look very exciting at first glance. It looks like a generic alien shooter. It sounds like a generic alien shooter. It pretty much is a generic alien shooter. However, it is much more than that when you add friends to the mix. In my experience with fellow SoulGamer Blake, there were many occurrences of panicked screaming, explosions going everywhere. It can get hectic and that is so much better when you are screaming into a microphone. Or screaming into an ear that is sat right beside you.

The biggest source of grief are definitely the random hordes - where dozens of enemies rush to attack you - and the various bosses that will pop up from time to time. They are random from what I can tell and it can help spice up gameplay, especially if you are going back through levels you have already done. It adds a good amount of variety.

I definitely recommend this game if you can wrangle a friend or three to play along with. Otherwise, it’s still an okay game but it is not the same. It escaped people's attention when it first came out but hopefully it will get a new lease of life now. At least where it is actually available as a free game.

Playstation Vita

Laser Disco Defenders

Developer: Out of Bounds

Publisher: Excalibur Games

Originally Released: October 2016

Laser Disco Defenders is a randomly generated twin stick shooter where you play a Disco-loving person on a jetpack shooting everything in a bid to stop Lord Monotone and save the universe’s taste in music. A standard story. The gimmick of the game though is every shot you make stays in play - meaning if you go overboard you will end up having to dodge your own lasers. Groovy.

You have four characters to play with and they all have two stats: health and speed. One character has four health but is slow and each subsequent character sacrifices a heart of health in exchange for more speed. I prefer health so I just stick with my boy Mr. Baker.

The goal of every level is to fly around the cave and destroy all the enemies. You control your jetpack with the left analog stick, aim with the right and shoot with R1. Occasionally enemies will drop powerups and each one is mapped to the face buttons. It is a simple set-up which is good because the game is pretty hard.


As mentioned, your laser shots stay in play and so do some of the enemies. If you are too trigger happy you will have a hard time dodging your rebounded shots. To get good at the game you need to maximize your destructive potential while making as little shots as possible while dodging everything in sight.

The music is delightfully disco themed, as to be expected. The levels themselves are fairly dull but that is okay in a game where you are expected to dodge a heap of objects - a groovy background would make the game harder to play.

The game is simple to pick up and play but I do worry that there might not be a lot of depth to the game. You can complete goals to unlock new outfits but unlike other games of its ilk - Binding of Isaac or Nuclear Throne - there does not seem to be much replayability once you have mastered the game. However, for what it is - Laser Disco Defenders is the perfect kind of portable game and it’s definitely worth checking out.

Type: Rider

Developer: Ex Nihilo
Publisher: Plug In Digital
Originally Released: Nov 2013 (PC), Jul 2016 (PS Vita, PS4)

So this is a game about typography. It’s wonderful. You play as two dots that resemble as a colon that has fallen down. By colon, I do mean a: and not a human colon although I will happily play that game too. It is a side-scrolling platformer that is fairly basic but the levels are designed after different periods and font-types.

Is it perfect as a game? No, the physics sometimes go a little haywire and the occasional jump doesn’t quite work the way you intend. Is it perfect as an educational tool about typography? Not entirely but it does supply enough for those who might be interested in exploring more themselves. Each level you are tasked with collecting the 26 letters of the alphabet, including a semi-hidden ampersand, and six stars that will give you a paragraph or two on a subject related to the font style.

I like history so I enjoy the game for what it is though I will admit to having a little previous interest in typography. The game looks nice, the levels do a good job at matching the theme and the music so far is sublime. There is not much else to say, I would have a hard time recommending this to just anybody - you really have to appreciate typography or at least be willing to. I enjoyed it though and will play through to the end - it is a fairly short game.

Playstation 3

Port Royale 3

Developer: Gaming Minds Studio
Publisher: Kalypso Media
Originally Released: October 2012

This game will not be for everyone. It is a business simulation game set in the colonials times but with elements of real time strategy thrown in. There are two campaigns - Trader which focusses on the economic side of the game and Adventurer which delves into the battling and naval warfare side of Port Royale.

I went with Trader for the soul reason that it was the default option highlighted. The story is that we are a young man off to explore the New World but when we get cast overboard during a storm and we end up in the titular Port Royale. We eventually meet the daughter of the Viceroy, Elena and fall in love immediately but we need to prove our worth because she is upper class and we are common.

In the Trader campaign, we set out to prove ourselves to the girl by saving and eventually developing the town of Cayman which is struggling yet has great importance to Elena. We do this by developing trade relations with all the different towns of the Caribbean with Spanish, English, French and Dutch interests. We buy supplies in the different towns, sell them for higher prices in towns that need them and use our profits to buy new ships. We can also use supplies and money to acquire new buildings in these towns which can then improve their output, making our job of becoming rich a little easier in the long run.

The gameplay takes part on two different fields of views - there is the world map in which the player, in a ship, travels from town to town. We can buy and sell goods as well as take part in quests that normally involve buying and selling goods. For those who may want an extra swashbuckler instead of business, you can also go down the path of piracy and attack ships and towns.

You can also enter each town and invest our earnings and supplies to improving the town. If you have played Kalypso’s Tropico series then it is like a stripped down version of that.

The game clearly has a lot of scopes and it seems to possess a fair amount of depth. The issue for a lot of people might be the fact that it is incredibly slow to open up. I played for about two hours and only just unlocked the ability to improve a town. I would have got bored of it quite quickly if I wasn’t a sucker for watching my profits go up. I love money.

Port Royale 3 is not perfect and it’s mostly presentation based. Visually it is alright for this kind of game but nothing special. The subtitles are often slightly different than what the voice actor says - every time the voice actor says ‘city’ the subtitles say ‘town. Same with ‘ship’ and ‘vessel’. Also, the autosave notification goes along most of the screen and actually covers up a section of any menu you might have been in at the time which is incredibly annoying.

However, I had fun with my short time with the game and I expect I will come back to it in the near future. If you enjoy business simulators and have a lot of patience then this has potential to keep you entertained for a while. If you just wanna blow the crap out of some ships then there are better games for that out there but the option is still there. I can’t see this being for everyone, especially on a console, but it’s a decent addition to the PS+ lineup which is an increasingly rare thing to say about the PS3 offerings.

Blood Knights

Developer: Deck13 Interactive
Publisher: Kalypso Media
Originally Released: November 2013

Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about Blood Knights. It is a Hack & Slash RPG about vampires. Imagine Diablo except it dia-BLOWS I’m sorry I will never do that again.

This game is very uninspired in that nothing about it is original, you can point to other games that do what Blood Knights does but better i.e. the aforementioned Diablo. Heck, if you want a good H&S game about vampires then BloodRayne is better than this.

You switch control between two characters - Jeremy, a vampire hunter who hacks and slashes and Alysa, a vampire who shoots and doesn’t wear many clothes. The game does have the option for local co-op and actually, I could see that being the best way to play this game as the constant need to switch characters is not great and the two contrasting play styles would compliment each other rather nicely.

The story is that Jeremy and his troops are tasked to stop the vampires from stealing the Blood Seal. A Priest decides, for some reason, to bond Jeremy with a vampire, Alysa. However, bad things happen, Jeremy becomes a vampire and is cast off to die. The two hate each other but the bond cannot be broken so are forced to work with each other. It is a bland story made blander by the fact that the voice actors are horrible. I’m talking Symphony of the Night levels of wooden delivery and poor writing.

The game is also ridiculously easy - the enemy AI is hilariously broken. If you want to win easily then you can just use Alysa, shoot enemies from a distance and they will eventually fall down dead. Or run away. The combat otherwise is not fluid, I kept taking a lot of damage when using Jeremy because it is hard to attack and then get out of the way of an oncoming enemy. Despite this, the game drops so many health pickups and you can suck blood to recover health that you are unlikely to be in danger for long.

Blood Knights might be a decent local co-op game - there are no online capabilities - if you really are desperate for one but otherwise save your time and play something else.

The Verdict

Well, it is a big step up from last month. The PS4 games are both great in different ways - Tales from the Borderlands is a fun story-driven adventure while Alienation practically screams for some co-op destruction with buddies. The Vita games are both available on the PS4 too and they are good too, Laser Disco Defenders is another twin stick shooter with a decent learning curve while Type: rider is all about learning.

Port Royale is pretty good if you like that kind of games leaving just Blood Knights as the only downer. Considering the PS3 is practically a grandpa these days it’s not too much of a surprise to see it struggling to grab attention away from the newer consoles. All in all, a very solid month.

Play: Tales from the Borderlands, Alienation (with friends), Laser Disco Defenders

Maybe Play: Type: Rider, Port Royale

Avoid: Blood Knights


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siwjohnston

siwjohnston

Stuart Johnston

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