Saturday, April 17, 2021

Oddworld: Soulstorm Review – A NEGATIVE Batch Of Brew

Playing Oddworld: Soulstorm is as arduous as Abe’s quest to liberate his Mudoken brethren from slavery. Each step is a supreme test of patience as you methodically guide your followers through challenging hazards, sweating over the fact that one slip-up could unravel all your effort. If you enjoy putting up with that old-school challenge, you might love this journey. However, if you’re a newcomer or a fan that believes this style of platformer hasn’t aged very well, turn back now. Soulstorm doesn’t do enough to modernize the series’ tedious gameplay, and a litany of severe technical hiccups spoil Abe’s attempted comeback. A reimagining of Oddworld: Abe's Exoddus, Soulstorm’s gameplay remains largely the same: you recruit and guide followers through 2D platforming stages littered with dangers. As charming as the classic Oddworld games are, they can be frustratingly difficult and that hasn’t changed much in Soulstorm. Most Slig enemies and other hazards mow Abe down instantly, and I was infuriated by how little wiggle room I had to correct course when things went sideways. Abe drops so fast that it makes the health meter seem like a cruel tease. While playing Soulstorm, I often felt like I was walking on eggshells because of that high price of failure, retracing every step, re-recruiting every Mudokon, and carefully guiding them through a gauntlet of foes is soul-crushing when it all falls apart in seconds. Dying to unexpected perils, like being suddenly gunned down by off-screen enemies, feels cheap and happens way too often. A crafting system serves as Soulstorm’s biggest addition, but it doesn’t feel necessary. You must repeatedly gather the same ingredients every time you die (by searching lockers, trash cans, and fallen foes), which wore me down in a hurry after repeatedly replaying certain sections. The crafted tools themselves, like proximity mines, smoke screens, even a flamethrower, do add a welcomed element of flexibility and improvisation to gameplay. Dropping smoke screens to create hiding spots anywhere is nice, but I wished I didn’t have to make these items myself and grew tired of digging around the same spots over and over.   Even when Soulstorm’s difficulty eases up, the gameplay is bland. The action feels largely the same from previous games in the series, and that formula doesn’t evolve significantly beyond the first few hours. Even the more interesting sequences, like facing down a giant mech aboard a speeding train, are far too punishing to be fun. I’m glad that Abe controls better now (he even has a double jump), but the controls still have a mushy unresponsiveness that makes entertaining actions, like possessing Sligs, feel like a hassle. The controls also lead to additional deaths because Abe doesn’t act as swiftly as you need him to, especially during the ill-fitting, overly demanding combat arenas that pit you against waves of baddies while you try to protect fleeing Mudokens. Soulstorm would be a tough recommendation for anyone outside of diehard fans if it performed flawlessly, but I encountered several progress-sabotaging bugs (even after installing the big day-one patch) that should scare off even those players. When I died, Mudokens sometimes failed to respawn alongside me even though my tally indicated they were still alive and under my command. That meant I lost out on turning in followers that I’d spent ages trying to safely liberate, which negatively affected my overall quarma – a vital metric in determining which of the four endings you get.  Abe occasionally gets stuck in environmental geometry, forcing a restart. At one point, I fell into an infinite loop. One escape portal permanently vanished once I reached it, forcing me to abandon followers. A gun in a late-game turret sequence failed to shoot despite working fine in previous segments. After multiple restarts, I randomly discovered that clicking the right stick “fixed” the weapon for some reason, allowing it to fire. I spent over an hour trying to lead a large group of followers through a particularly challenging area, but once I opened the exit door an invisible wall prevented me from moving forward. I was forced to restart this entire, lengthy sequence twice before the exit worked properly. Soulstorm’s gameplay pushed my patience to its limits, but these bugs sent me over the edge and made me nervous every time I started a new level. “What on Earth is going to screw me over this time?” I regularly asked myself. Soulstorm’s faults are a shame because its narrative and presentation brought a smile to my face. Abe and his pals are goofy, delightful underdogs I couldn’t help but root for. The enjoyable story is packed with heart, and the cutscenes look great. I wanted to welcome Abe into a new generation of gaming with open arms, but Soulstorm fails to make a case for why its brand of cinematic platforming works today. In fact, Soulstorm only reaffirmed that Abe’s past adventures are best viewed with rose-colored glasses.
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    Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night’s Classic Mode Makes Old-School Cool Again

    Hello Bloodstained Fans!

    New year, new free content! We are excited to bring Classic Mode and the new Kingdom: Two Crowns boss area to Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night today!

    Classic Mode

    Classic Mode takes the gameplay of Bloodstained and dials it back a few decades to feel just like the classic platformers of your past. It’s a retro experience you won’t want to miss.

    Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

    Classic Mode contains five levels of enemies and sub-bosses that lie between you and your ultimate goal: Gebel. Can you survive his devious traps? It will take all your old-school skills to make it to the end before you run out of lives.

    This isn’t a casual sightseeing tour, you’ll face a horde of demons that stand in your way. To survive, you need your platforming skills and your trusty swordwhip. Additional shards can be picked up throughout the Classic Mode levels, each with its own special properties. You can only have one shard at a time, so you will have to change your tactics to suit your currently equipped ability.

    Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

    When you finish Classic Mode, you’ll be graded on time, score, and number of deaths across three difficulty modes.

    Ready to play Classic Mode? Download the latest update today and choose Extra Mode from the main menu. Select the Classic Mode option and prepare yourself for a new (old) adventure. A completed playthrough of the core game is not required to play Classic Mode. Just jump in and go kick demon butt.

    Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

    Kingdom Crossover

    Our friends at Raw Fury included Bloodstained characters in Kingdom: Two Crowns and it’s time for us to return the favor!

    Included with this free update is a new Boss Area created in the Kingdom: Two Crowns style. The area is hidden within the existing castle when playing as Miriam. To find it, you will need to first defeat Bathin and then locate and acquire the Crown of Creation. That crown will be your key to the new area…if you can find it. It will not appear on the map (and will not affect your map completion).

    Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

    When you find the hidden area, you will have to defeat a Kingdom: Two Crowns boss. Should you succeed, you will be rewarded with a new Familiar Shard that can be used throughout the game.

    We hope you enjoy Classic Mode and Kingdom Crossover. Thank you for being fans of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night!

    Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

    Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

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    Bloodstained is an exploration-focused, side-scroller action RPG packing all of the best features you’ve come to know and love from the Metroidvania genre into a single, content-packed game. Play as Miriam, an orphan scarred by an alchemist’s curse which slowly crystallizes her body. In order to save herself, and indeed, all of humanity, she must battle her way through a demon-infested castle summoned by Gebel, her old friend whose body and mind has become more crystal than flesh.

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