In a single year there are more games released than I can possibly review, even if that was all I did all day (though I wouldn't mind trying). 2013 is no exception. Rather than let all those I cannot review fall through the cracks, I'm going to give a quick look at four games I got to play. Without further ado.
Beyond: Two Souls
Beyond: Two Souls tells the story of Jodie Holmes, a woman who has, since birth, been connected to an entity she refers to as Aiden. Aiden can interact with the real world, in ways that seem to give Jodie supernatural powers. While her story is told from childhood through her adulthood it is told in a nonlinear fashion. The results of this sometimes leave players a little disorientated as to what is going on in each time switch, but eventually it all gets wrapped up.
The game can be played with the regular controllers or, in an unusual step, with a smartphone or tablet using the Beyond: Two Souls app. The app was designed so that gamers with partners who don't game can enjoy the game and story together. When using the app controls, it automatically switches the game into easy mode. The app controls are actually pretty decent to use.
The game takes a realistic tone for it’s graphics. They even went so far as to do full body scans of all the actors in the game and motion captures of them for a majority of the game. Which, given who they got, is a little surprising. Ellen Page plays Jodie, and Academy Award Nominee William Defoe plays Nathan Dawkins, a researcher trying to help Jodie deal with Aiden and live a normal life.
Overall the game plays wonderfully. Developer Quantic Dream are well known for creating a story heavy game that pushes toward being an interactive movie. Here they come very close. There were a few instances where trying to highlight an interactive point was like trying to guide a blindfolded person through a maze. You eventually get there, but it can take you out of the moment when it happens. Still the game is so excellent overall that I'm going to add it to my stack of "Games of the Year." I rate Beyond: Two Souls a 4.5 out of 5.
Beyond: Two Souls is rated M for Mature for Blood, Intense Violence, Sexual Content, Strong Language, and Use of Drugs and Alcohol by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board.
For more information see the official Beyond: Two Souls web site
Remember Me takes place in the future, Neo-Paris 2084 to be exact. It centers around Nilin, an Errorist, who is imprisoned in the Bastille Fortress. A brain implant has been developed by a company called Memorize that allows people to upload and share their memories via the internet. Additionally the implant allows them to remove unpleasant or unhappy memories completely. Some people become addicted to memories and absorb so many that their implant erodes causing them to devolve into subhuman forms call Leapers. Because Memorize is the only maker of this technology they have strong control over the population. The Erroists, led by an enigmatic man named Edge, fight back against Memorize in attempt to expose them and bring them down.
Nilin is extremely unique in that, not only can she read the memories of people, she can also "remix" them changing them almost to whatever she wants. She is in the Bastille Fortess for her crimes, having her memory wiped, when Edge, who she hears only via her implant, helps her escape.
The game is a third person, action stealth game that I feel kind of floated under everyone's radar. The story has many twists, which get revealed about Nilin's past as she regains her memories through the game. It was a kick to play. Developers, Dontnod Entertainment came up with an unique combo system that allows you to build combos with modifiers that will help you regain health or provide combat bonuses, sort of a combo à la carte. I rate Remember Me a 4 out of 5.
Remember me is rated M for Mature for Blood, Partial Nudity, Strong Language, and Violence by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board.
For more information see the official Remember Me web site.
Batman: Arkham Origins
It's always a little worrying when a developer loses control of a game series they created into greatness, but that's what happened to Batman: Arkham Origins. Original developers of the series, Rocksteady Studios, were replaced with Warner Bros Games Montréal. Thankfully they were the same developers that adapted Batman: Arkham City for the Wii-U so they were familiar with the source material.
The story is set five years before the events of Batman: Arkham Asylum, but the second year since Bruce Wayne assumed the role of Batman. This not only gave the story a younger, slightly less experienced Batman, but the city of Gotham is still unfamiliar with him which result in him coming in conflict with the police themselves. The criminal Black Mask is trying to solidify his empire. To ensure his rise to power he has placed a bounty on Batman's head that brings eight of the deadliest assassins to Gotham: Deathstroke, Killer Croc, Bane, Deadshot, Copperhead, Firefly, Shiva, and Electrocutioner.
The gameplay leans heavily on the same system that Rocksteady Studios developed, which on one hand was a smart move by Warner Bros Games Montréal, letting them concentrate on story and building the city. On the other hand there aren’t any changes, giving Batman: Arkham Origins an overall "holding pattern" feel for the series. It's just as fun and challenging as the past games, but doesn't advance the game play either. One new element is the online multiplayer, this though was not developed by Warner Bros Games Montréal, but by Splash Damage. The multiplayer story is that two criminal gangs, Joker's and Bane's, are facing off against each other. Trying to stop both gangs is the team of Batman and Robin. It's a fun unique team combat that was a nice addition. I rate Batman: Arkham Origns a 4 out of 5.
Batman: Arkham Origins is rated T for Teen for Blood, Drug Reference, Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, and Violence by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board.
For more information see the official Batman: Arkham Origins web site.
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is a beautiful role playing game developed by Level 5 with world famous animation house Studio Ghibli (creators of Spirited Away and Ponyo) providing the art style and all the cut scenes. The story centers on Oliver, a young boy in the city of Motortown. When he crashes a go-kart into a canal his mother, Allie, saves him from drowning, only to die herself of a heart attack from the exertion. Later in grief Oliver's tears bring a stuffed doll his mother had given him to life. The doll turns out to be a fairy named Drippy from a magical mirror world where everyone in Oliver's world has a linked "soulmate." Drippy determines that Oliver's mother looks a lot like the Great Sage Alicia who has been kidnapped but the evil Dark Djinn, Shadar. He also points out that Oliver himself has the power to slip between the two worlds. Oliver decides to help Drippy rescue Alicia with hopes that it will bring his own mother back in his world.
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch feels like a return to old school RPG's with a healthy dash of modern action. Players fight monsters in real time by casting spells, or they can use a familiar to fight for them. Familiars level up and evolve just like the players, plus players can guide their evolution by feeding them treats and equipping them with special items.
The storytelling is phenomenal and the gameplay is at a fun quick pace. I rate Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch a 4 out of 5.
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is rated E10+ for Everyone 10 and Older for Alcohol and Tobacco Reference, Comic Mischief, Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, and Simulated Gambling.
For more information see the official Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch web site.