Released: 8/28/2018 | Genre: Action/Adventure
Platform: PSVR | Price: $29.99 (Review Copy Provided)
By: Kevin Lane | email@example.com
Hype Score: N/A | Final Score: 82
Throughout the months of August and September in 2018, the gaming industry as a whole has been on fire with releases, beta tests, announcements, and what have you – so it is not surprising to me that certain games either catch me off guard, or don’t catch me at all. Due to the wonderful PSVR Community, Bow to Blood caught my attention the day it released. Like many Virtual Reality games, watching a YouTube video just doesn’t do the game justice. You have to play it to truly understand what you are getting yourself into here. Thankfully, Developer TribeToy provided The Backlog Exposed a Review Copy of their new Virtual Reality Game “Bow to Blood”. See how and why we score it the way we do below.
This section is normally where we discuss our initial hype score of the game. Given all the hype for a game (i.e. Firewall: Zero Hour) how does it initially hold up to those demands. In this instance, Bow to Blood wasn’t even on our radar, so there was no Hype Factor involved. We’ll be dishing out our review in the section below.
Hype Score: N/A
Bow to Blood is a single-player game that offers a unique blend of a few different game types that hasn’t been combined before. Known as a “Freelancer”, you command a heavy floating war-ship in a round-robin “Survivor” style Tournament where making friends or enemies can make a huge difference in your game’s outcome. Along the way, you acquire much needed assistance on deck where you can command your two helpers to such tasks as manning the guns, engines, drones and shields. Commanding these two appropriately is easier said than done at first, but this was something I got the hang of after playing a few rounds.
So, how is this Survivor Style? Well, each round is one of a few different types of game modes where you are vying for top of the leaderboards. Whether it be a battle, race or point gathering exploration, you’re gunning for top dog – otherwise you run the risk of getting cut. Much like in Survivor, your foes (NPCs) help decide the fate of the two in point totals. These combatants, (all procedurally generated and randomized) have different personalities and styles – and they challenge you to make decisions will surely impact your outcome. In one example, I helped a competitor explore the area together – and assisted in fending off any enemies (robotic droid looking things that shot at us). I was successful in helping her out, and it saved me. I had the least number of points at the end of a round, and her vote helped keep me in the game. This truly adds a perspective on gaming that I haven’t found anywhere else.
As with most VR Games, Bow to Blood comes equipped with motion sickness support in the form of focus blinders – but in Bow to Blood – they are defaulted off, which is something I really appreciate. I am in the camp that most people playing VR games have an understanding that if the game makes you sick, you take off the headset and discontinue playing – or you run the risk of having the weirdest motion-sickness experience of your life. That being said, I played for 2 straight hours before getting any sort of motion sickness. This could be due to the extended period in which I played without taking a break – and not necessarily with the game itself. As you command this large warship, the feeling of rocking on a boat is there, but it did not trip me up for the most part. It is slower than I would expect a game like this to be, which is both part of the charm and annoyance of the game.
My only real issues with this game are the controls and the initial explanations on how to play. First, with the controls, let me state that I don’t play a lot of flight sims, so I am not very comfortable with handling the ups and downs and whatnot. Take that for what it’s worth – but I still wanted to play and win. You can play with both the DS4 and the Move Controllers – and I would recommend using the Move Controllers from the start. Way easier to navigate your ship’s resources and controls. I felt the sluggish movement of the warship was something I had a hard time getting past. I tend to faster paced games like First Person Shooters where you’re running and gunning. In this game, maneuverability is limited and you have to be aware of your surroundings or you may end up hitting a mine-field.
I went through the beginning training sessions, but felt I didn’t get enough of the movement aspect, and spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to get around properly. Eventually, I got the hang of it – but I was almost ready to hang it up for a bit before things started clicking. Maybe some more apparent on-screen feedback for control assistance would help in the beginning stages. Many times I just wanted to get up and above the obstacles so I could move to another area of the map, but was hindered by going a direction I was not trying to go. With time, this was reduced – but you’ll never get the fast paced experience if that is what you are looking for. Another area that could use some additional explanation is the resource allocation and station allocation. You get a quick lesson on how to guide your helpers from one station to the next, but I feel the game could get into more detail as to what they’ll be doing there – and how each one could benefit you. I felt this was more of a trial and error before getting the hang of it. Resource allocation is probably a bit more self-explanatory, but as a novice to the game, I feel like a better description of what moving resources from one area to the next could mean – in terms of helping or hindering me in my journey.
Some final thoughts:
- Game Length: Full Tourneys last between 5-6 hours each if you make it that far. Each round took me anywhere between 10-30 minutes – and there are two matches in each round.
- Game-play Speed & Style: This is a slower paced single-player shooter/racer/exploration game with survival and politics mashed in. Definitely a unique combination that I believe is the makings of something great.
- Difficulty: Hard. While it is easy to shoot the robotic flying enemies here and there, it can sometimes get overwhelming and difficult – all while trying to manage your ship and its resources. I like that this was tough.
- Controls: Not my favorite – I prefer the Move Controllers over the DS4 for sure – but I feel like it should be better explained how to get around.
- Replay-ability: I can see some people playing a few rounds and deciding this game is not for them, and more people willing to stick it out at least to the end of the first tourney – but this game has some major replay-ability. You can continue on and move forward in the game, making alliances and enemies. The replay-ability is truly endless here.
- Repetitive? I imagine that it could become repetitive over time, but with the different game modes and randomly generated characters I imagine this will vary depending on how much you like the game.
- Plot: This is dynamic based on what happens after each round. A great strength of the game.
- Characters: The characters are procedurally generated and have different attitudes, names, personalities, etc. (I did notice that in some of the game play videos, the character images were definitely repeated, but the names were different). One major thing to note here is that the On-Screen announcer was super annoying. I didn’t care about his voice – that was to be expected in a game like this… but it felt like they really fell through on making the announcer something of substance. Maybe this was done on purpose, but the 4 frames per second style image of the announcer talking you through each round got old, real quick. I can compare this to Star Blood Arena, who obviously put a lot of time and effort into their announcer booth – there was a level of creativity there that was absolutely absent from this game.
- Hype Factor: N/A
The politics and survival aspect of this game propels it into something more unique than any game like it. I honestly thing this is a new genre. It is currently billed as an Action Adventure game, but it is more than that. I would love to see another iteration of this game with slightly stronger visuals – although they were much stronger than many PSVR games out on the market today. I would also like to see TribeToy factor in multi-player into this game. Maybe a shorter/tighter game tourney mode that puts 8 players together to try and secure a victory. I know the VR Multiplayer landscape is one of fast drop-offs and many unknowns, but I really feel that a game like this would be a lot of fun with real players on the other side.
The Risk vs. Reward system of helping or pissing off other competitors is a fun aspect to an already fun game. Add in the companion app (which I admit I didn’t get to experience yet) for some additional fun, and TribeToy really has a sleeper hit on their hands. I hope they continue to refine the game and tighten up some of the control experiences, but all in all, this game has high replay-ability and a fun concept I’ve never seen all-in-one before. I give Bow to Blood a strong 82 and look forward to playing some more in the arena.
Final Score: 82
Developer: Insomniac Games
Released: 9/7/2018 | Genre: Survival | Platform: PS4 | Price: $59.99
By: Joel Ruble | firstname.lastname@example.org
Hype Score: 90 | Final Score: 93
Spider-Man has been talked about, commercials, trailer after trailer was shown. My mind was made up before the game was ever pre-ordered, GOTY. It has to be right? All the talk, hype and waiting only made it seem as if it couldn’t be a bad game. Day one i started playing and let me say, “AMAZING”, even that word doesn’t do the game justice. The colors of the characters, trees, city, skyline, it all seems so real. The way Spider-man moves through the city, the sounds, sirens, and people talking on the street, so incredible. At first I would catch myself walking around just to take in the scenery. After about 8 hours of game play I’m absolutely loving the game. So many side missions to do, bad guys to fight, people to save, an outstanding game that puts Spider-Man in the light for once.
Hype Score: 90
So once again Spider-Man is cleaning up the city from corrupt criminals and “other” thugs you will see throughout the game. I am 80% complete with the game and I am actually very impressed with how the story puts you into different characters shoes. SPOILER ALERT, I really like how you play other characters in the game and get their perspective on what they are seeing and going through. It brings the game full circle as you help Spider-Man as MJ in certain parts of the game. That was a great feature to add in the game. Spider-Man is always helping everyone and this time around you get to help Spider-Man.
All the boss fights are awesome, the in between fight scenes are amazing, the additional interactions with on screen button display to damage or continuing the fight. I said it before but the storyline keeps you on your toes. Helping Doctor Octavius in his lab and understanding his problems and trying to help him get over the hurdles. Helping Aunt May at the F.E.A.S.T facility with the homeless are just a couple of the amazing parts of this incredible story/journey this game takes you on. I rate this game high due to the fact I feel they but a ton of time and dedication into this game and it obviously shows.
Some final thoughts:
– There are very few aspects of the game i dis-like, but the main one is the movement on buildings. It becomes a little tricky once you start crawling around.
– There are many reasons I like the game, here are just a few. The ability to have many, many costumes, each giving a different ability. The wide variety of missions to choose from, the ability to wear a suit but choose an ability from another suit. The free roam aspect is really fun as well.
I play a ton of video games and this one is on my top 5 list of all time favorite games. The re-playablilty is awesome, the entire game had my attention all the way. Never once did I get bored of missions or side quest. The stunning graphics keep you involved, the controls are as good as you can get. I have to say if you own a PS4 this needs to be in your collection hands down. This will be money well spent.
WELL DONE INSOMNIAC GAMES.
Final Score: 93
Developer: Quantic Dream
Released: 5/25/2018 | Genre: Survival | Platform: PS4 | Price: $59.99
By: Kevin Lane | email@example.com
Hype Score: 85 | Final Score: 83
I want to state upfront on the record that prior to playing Detroit: Become Human, I had only watched the initial E3 trailers as well as the story trailer that Sony put out on their live.playstation.com site. I knew I wanted to play this game based on the graphics alone, but the story was also intriguing to me. From movies like iRobot and Ex Machina, and hell, even the Jetsons had a personal maid robot back in the 80s, I’ve always been interested in what the future of that technology truly looks like. We’re at the tail end of 2018 and we let robots vacuum our house, wash our dishes, dry our clothes, turn our lights on and off, and we will soon let them drive us around. If we as humans can entrust our lives to self-driving cars, then why not an Android who can clean the house, run our errands, and protect us at night? I’m a technology fiend, so I would probably be one of the first in line when the real thing arrives.
So Detroit: Become Human bills itself as a Survival Game based in a futuristic 2038 Detroit. The time of Androids is upon us, and they handle nearly every possible manual labor task ~ from security guard to gardener, from butler to sex slave, this Detroit has it all. You play the game across three story lines – three Androids (Connor, Kara and Markus) and their individual journeys to “Become Human”. The FREE Demo (available in the PS Store) plays out the first mission in the game where you act as Connor, the straight shooter Deviant Investigator and top of the line Model RK800 Android. Deviants (Androids gone bad) are a plenty, and Connor is there to try and find out what is causing their growth. In the Demo Mission, you learn the play-style of this game quickly. It is a choose your own adventure Quick Time Event (QTE) playable movie. And boy does it look like a movie.
Upon initially playing Detroit: Become Human, I was enthralled by the visual effects and scenery. From the first moments in the hallway (yes, I saved the fish) to finding myself outside on the rooftop of a skyscraper trying to stop a Deviant from throwing a little girl off the ledge, I was in awe of just how visually appealing the game truly was. Admittedly, I wasn’t happy with how my first play-through of Chapter 1 panned out, so I tried it again and made some different choices which resulted in a completely different end to the scene, and potentially the game itself. Right from the get-go, I was amazed and wanting more. I played a few more chapters – one with Kara and another with Markus, and was ready to give my initial Hype Rating. At this point, the game scores an 85 from me. With just an hour or two in, I’d say pick it up if it is anywhere near your type of game.
Hype Score: 85
After a good 13+ hours of game-play, I was able to complete just one of more than 45 possible endings in Detroit: Become Human. After my initial Hype Score of 85, I was quickly brought down into the trenches where the first half of the game felt much less like a “game” and way more like I was just playing a movie. Sure, some of the outcomes of my decisions felt important, but nothing that made me want to re-run a chapter. I wanted to progress and see where the story took me, which I admit grew on me as I played along. I would easily say that at the mid-way point of the game, I was starting to lean to a sub-80 rating. I wasn’t getting bored, but there were a few key things that really started bothering me.
- Movement speeds started feeling slower and slower. A park bench or a wrong turn had the character doing weird round-about maneuvers to get around objects; although the developers did an amazing job making the characters look incredible doing these weird moves. The movements looked natural and realistic, but in a world of open and free gameplay, guiding these characters felt cumbersome and got tiring after a while.
- So many stupid controller actions. It seems like they could have just played you through quite a lot of the first half of the game, but instead made you pay attention by triggering button presses and right stick movements to progress on things like opening and closing doors, moving shades, checking cabinets, etc. It wasn’t until the second half of the game that these types of things felt a bit more in place.
- Some of the story felt forced, almost pigeon-holing you into making certain decisions. (I’ll explain more below).
After my initial Hype Review, I had a good taste of each character. I will try to explain without giving away too much of the story below. Warning, potential minor spoilers below. I wanted to be consistent and see how it all turned out. I didn’t know much about the game going in aside from the vast number of possible endings and that the graphics were incredible. I played Connor as the straight shooter cop. He was the top of the line model, so I felt he should have no flaws in his software. Every decision I made avoided enacting Human Emotional response. As stated in #3 above, this became increasingly hard to do as most decisions really focused on appealing to emotions. Connor’s partner, Lt. Anderson, was a drunk with emotional problems. I am not sure why they were assigned to be together (maybe I missed something), but there were many chances to befriend and bond with the Lt. The path I took resulted in a conclusion for Connor that only 12% of the world got – so I was impressed I was able to hold out the whole way. Kara’s character was a bit easier to play. She was the care-taker and protector of young Alice, who was being abused at home. Spoiler Alert – I broke free of the Android Slavery and used that emotion to kill the trashy dude that was attacking his daughter. This put Kara on the Deviant List (and Connor’s radar) and she was forced to flee and get Alice to safety. I played Kara as a motherly figure, doing everything she could to keep Alice safe, while also not worrying her too much. There were chances to steal or attack, and I always chose to go the most ethical route. Without wavering, I played her this way until the end – where she met her ultimate demise trying to protect Alice. I am proud to say, only 4% of the player population received this ending, but I am pretty sure I missed out on a good hour of gameplay going this route. Lastly, there is Markus – the lead Deviant. How did he get there? Well, I played Markus as the guy who had enough of the human’s bullshit. Markus was ready to take on the world – and he ran into a group of Androids looking for the same. Every decision made was aimed to hurt the human population – if I was to be a Deviant, I’d be the best Deviant I could be, right? I chose to attack in every possible circumstance. I chose to destroy or burn everything I could. I put teammates at risk for the greater good. Markus was Connor’s Arch Nemisis by the time this game was over. I believe only 12% of the playerbase got the same ending.
So, with so many possible outcomes, so many choices, and so many concurrent storylines going on in this game… how do they do it? I can’t even imagine how they got each storyline straight – but knowing I was one of few to get the combination of endings I saw was pretty cool. After I got through half of the game, it started getting really good. I was intrigued by the stories, and I started seeing how decisions I made earlier impacted the actual game itself. The simple button gestures became less annoying, and were followed up by some great QTEs Conor chasing Deviants or Markus conducting all out war. I would have to say that even on casual game-play mode, once the quick time events started coming, they were fast and furious. Many times, you had less than a second to respond, which truly resulted in total loss of characters. Save Lt. Anderson or Capture the Deviant? GO! Less than one second and your choice must be made, and the entire story changes. While I would have loved more of these elements that felt like actual game-play, I truly enjoyed the choose your own adventure style. This was done in such a deep and interesting way that I must applaud the writing staff for having such a vision.
Some final thoughts:
- Game Length: Over 13 hours
- Game-play Speed & Style: The movement was the biggest wet-blanket here – I often times found myself button mashing so I could run (to no avail).
- Difficulty: There was practically no difficulty at all, save for a few quick time events that required instant thinking – but aside from that, movement was the most difficult factor here.
- Controls: Controls were easy to grasp and simple to handle.
- Replay-ability: Incredible. If I didn’t have such a large back-log, I’d probably jump in and give it another go trying different things out. I plan on playing it through again at some point in the future.
- Repetitive? No, the story was constantly progressing and I stayed interested in it along the way. Most scenes were distinctively different than the others.
- Plot: The overall plot “Will Androids take over the world” is amazingly filled with so many choices and outcomes that make the game incredibly strong.
- Characters: All three main characters were unique and believable. After playing through the game, I was amazed at how life-like they truly looked. Nearly every character with a line in the game had their actual human models mapped into the game – and a bunch were people I thought I had recognized in-game. Like Kara being that actress Valorie Curry (from The Following) and Lt. Anderson being Clancy Brown (from so many things including Starship Troopers and Sponge-Bob Square Pants). Even the secondary and tertiary characters had substance and depth.
- Hype Factor: This game came with a lot of hype due to its amazing graphics and push by Sony. I would say that this is visually the most stunning and realistic looking PS4 game I’ve ever played at this point (9/9/2018), which includes Spider-Man (released 9/7/2018).
At 50% through, I had this thing scoring in the high 70s – but with the ambitious storyline and eventual gameplay elements in the second half of the game, along with the incredible visuals and cliffhanger ending (at least the one I got felt like a cliffhanger) – I was left desiring more and ready to play through again. That boosted the score back up a bit to an 83, which I believe is still a very strong score. This is a great game and if you are into strong story based games like Naughty-Dog’s Last of Us or Uncharted Series, then there really isn’t any reason you wouldn’t love this one. If it is on your radar, it should be in your backlog and at the top of the list. It’s got enough for multiple playthroughs, but one may be enough – and in a world of a million games, 13 hours is good enough for me. Now on to the next game.