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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    Talking Samurai Warriors 5 with Producer Hisashi Koinuma

    18 years back, gaming producer Hisashi Koinuma began focus on the initial game in the Samurai Warriors series. Little did he know at that time that his game would become among the cornerstones of the Koei Tecmo catalog, and in 2021, he’d not merely be focusing on the franchise still, but he’d be developing the overall game while employed in his dual role as both company and producer president. We talked with Koinuma-san for more information about his upcoming title, his favorite character, and what the brand new re-imagined experience provides once the game hits Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S (via Backward Compatibility) in the U.S. july 27 on, 2021.

    Koei Tecmo: It’s the 17-year anniversary of the Samurai Warriors franchise. Why can you feel like this is actually the right time and energy to bring the series back?

    Hisashi Koinuma : Samurai Warriors is definitely a passion project if you ask me. I started focusing on the initial game 18 years back, and I am here, at it still. Fans of the franchise kept asking me: When will you create a new Samurai Warriors? And it’s difficult to help keep things such as this a secret. I would like to tell everyone what I’m focusing on, but obviously, it had been a secret [laughs]. Developing a new game is focused on timing. When you’re able to combine an excellent story with compelling action and art to go with that story, the timing is well known by you is to to push out a new game. It had been time when each one of these elements came together finally.

    Koei Tecmo : What’s the storyline of the brand new game?

    Hisashi Koinuma :  This right time around, Samurai Warriors 5 is a re-imagining of the initial Samurai Warriors title, including elements right away of the Sengoku Period (1467), beginning immediately after the ultimate end of the Ōnin war, which we weren’t in a position to include originally fully. The Samurai Warriors 5 story tells the tale of two of the very most preeminent military commanders of the period – Nobunaga Oda, and Mitsuhide Akechi. We thought exploring Nobunaga’s younger years, when he was referred to as “Owari’s Great Fool,” is fascinating with regards to both action and storytelling once we lead fans by way of a amount of turmoil and upheaval, resulting in the infamous Honnō-ji Incident up.

    Samurai Warriors 5

    Koei Tecmo : Why is the Sengoku period interesting with regards to transporting gamers to the time frame?

    Hisashi Koinuma : As developers, whenever we discuss Samurai Warriors, our high-level concept from the start, our concept from 18 years back remains exactly the same today: We have been seeking to deliver Japanese history with exciting characters that are portrayed in an awesome, unique way. If you ask me, the Sengoku period, with all its history, is strictly the proper place for Samurai Warriors and the sort of exhilarating action fans of the series crave.

    Koei Tecmo : There’s a fresh Ink art style to the overall game. Why the re-imagined look?

    Hisashi Koinuma : We’re really attempting to re-imagine everything in what we’re delivering with the franchise, also to do this, it’s key that from the 1st time you start to see the game, you understand from the initial images, the initial video that you’re seeing something unique, a thing that sticks out. We wished to bring a far more Japanese art style to the overall game, we wished to freshen up the appearance of each sword Musou and slice attack. This Japanese ink look helps capture the characters as if you haven’t observed in a Samurai Warriors game before.

    Samurai Warriors 5

    Koei Tecmo : Reveal concerning the new character featured in the overall game, Mitsuki, who’s a Kōga Ninja.

    Hisashi Koinuma : This can be a young female ninja having an interesting backstory. She was raised believing Nobunaga Oda is her father, and she idolizes him. How will her story playout in the ultimate end? You’ll have to play and see if her loyalty stands the test of time.

    Koei Tecmo : Who’s your preferred character to play as in the series through the entire years? Why? Today do they will have a quote that you follow to?

    Hisashi Koinuma : The primary idea behind our Musou games is definitely this one 1 vs. 1,000 exhilarating action. So, it’s key that the 1 in the 1 vs. 1,000 is someone you are feeling a link to, someone you intend to play as. One character that always stands Nō out if you ask me is. I love the English version of the Nō quote from Warriors Orochi 2 : “There’s very little you can’t do once you put your brain to it.” Good quote about life, and gaming development.

    Samurai Warriors 5

    Koei Tecmo : You’re not merely the producer of the overall game, but you’re the company’s president. What’s it like juggling those two roles? Which role better can you like? Why?

    Hisashi Koinuma : I’m a gamer, I’ve been a gamer and I’ll always love video gaming always. So naturally, creating games and working as a producer on titles like Samurai Warriors is what continues to inspire me. At the same time, making business decisions, attracting new partners, and helping our business grow allows me among others like me to keep to generate the games we love, therefore i guess it’s about striking the proper balance.

    Samurai Warriors 5

    Koei Tecmo : This is actually the first Samurai Warriors game going to Xbox since Samurai Warriors 2 . Why the go back to Xbox after this type of long hiatus?

    Hisashi Koinuma : Our plan as an organization would be to release our titles on multiple platforms, and we originally wished to release past titles on Xbox aswell but were not able to for various reasons. The idea because of this title would be to take up a re-imagined Samurai Warriors series, so we wish to also challenge ourselves to create this title to Xbox platforms aswell. We hope all of the Xbox fans enjoy Samurai Warriors 5 .

    Koei Tecmo : So what can fans expect if they finally obtain practical Samurai Warriors 5 ?

    Hisashi Koinuma : A deep storyline seeped in Japanese history, but with a great twist. We make an effort to take these authentic historical events and amp them up for gamers with an increase of weapons and enemies, giving fans the type of action and strategy that attracted them to the Samurai Warriors franchise to begin with. I believe this re-imagined look at Samurai Warriors is what fans have already been looking forward to exactly. I can’t await them to play!

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