Quake Enhanced Review (PC)

The iconic FPS that simultaneously holds up for old players and ushers new players into a brutal experience.

There are a handful of household names in the FPS genre from the decade the genre materialized: Duke Nukem, DOOM, Wolfenstein, Half-Life, and Quake. Ever since I entered the world of PC gaming in 2012, I’ve gotten my hands dirty with the first four, but haven’t gotten to tackle Quake – then, at QuakeCon 2021, it was announced that the titular gem would receive a remaster and release the very same day on every platform. Developed by a team I trust in NightDive Studios, who have spearheaded the retro revival with excellent results, I was immediately hyped and I saw this as the perfect time to enter this echelon of ancient FPS lore in the best format available.

NightDive’s approach in preserving old visuals will peak the nostalgia of Quake fans, saddled with smooth-as-silk performance.

Visuals

The approach to NightDive’s Quake, as mentioned, takes the graphics the older gamers grew up with and smooths out the edges while optimizing the performance. While even a potato laptop can breeze through the graphics, there’s support for the optimal resolution: 4K. As the newest consoles on the block, the Series S/X and PS5, have the capability of this demanding viewpoint, the title will simultaneously dazzle the eyes as well as surge the feelings from decades back that may have been felt on some gamers’ first playthroughs.

Audio

Where DOOM had groaning, snarling demons and Duke Nukem had a one-liner every minute, Quake opts for a more grounded, visceral aim with its audio. The music is still heavy in an industrial extreme kind of fashion, and that’s compounded by the recent performance from Code Orange on the Quake theme, which was originally composed by Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor. Reznor was also responsible for the sound effects in-game, which sound crisp as could be in this remaster. The pounding of each shotgun blast rippled through my haptic headphones and kept me fully-immersed throughout my run of the game.

Gameplay

As someone who “grew up” with FPS games 2 decades after their heyday, I have a profound appreciation for the genre’s roots. Unfortunately, I never got to experience Quake in its original form during that period, which is a bit of a blessing in disguise with this new revamp. Getting straight into the action after starting the game, it took no time at all to find my bearings and comprehend the power of each new weapon and when to utilize it. Even after all these years, the creative weaponry, including the Nailgun, the Rocket Launcher, and the Thunderbolt, make for some gory gibs and ample variation between fights. With secrets strewn about, replayability is also high for gamers looking to search every nook and cranny of each level.

Plot

Quake is light on plot, but tells its story through the violent scenery within its gameplay. As you traverse through each level, unsightly horrors await you to be blasted to bits. Enemies such as Ogres, Shamblers, and Scrags are abhorrent in appearance and would likely terrify younger gamers back in the day; they pose their own threat in both short and long-distance and are formidable foes in higher difficulties. Health and ammo are plentiful, and you’ll need them to get through the dozens of oppositions in each level.

Secrets are truly well-hidden in Quake, so get your adventure hat on if you want to find them all.

So, why should you buy it?

  • Memorable, engaging action in its best format to date.
  • The price tag hasn’t changed even after the overhaul.
  • A worthy challenge at each difficulty level.

But why shouldn’t you buy it?

  • Virtually no plot, just mind-numbing violence.
  • Currently included in Xbox Game Pass along with Quake II and 3.

A press copy of Quake Enhanced was provided courtesy of the publisher.

World for Two Review (PC)

A beautiful, empty world down to one human and a robot that can create more life.

The pixel aesthetic has shined through in indie games for the better part of a decade – titles like Stardew Valley, Shovel Knight, Celeste, and tons others are fan favorites thanks to their gorgeous presentation accompanying the other elements to make a memorable video game. When all the moving parts are in perfect harmony, it’s a formula for a 10/10 experience. World for Two, the newest offering from developer Seventh Rank, aims for that level with a life-creation game in this style.

World for Two Steam Indie PC Review Environment Graphics Pixel Art
There’s no two ways about it – World for Two is a looker.

Gameplay

The official genre title for World for Two is “life-creation”. If you have experience with titles like Monster Rancher, Spore, and other titles where life/death is at the forefront, you’ll have a vague idea of what’s going on here. Your task is to create new organisms, thanks to the DNA/genealogy of previous organisms. With death, comes life; you will harvest the DNA from your creations, and after three DNA pulls, they disappear. Once you create a new organism, you can experiment with DNA/gene combinations to keep discovering more and more new organisms. An area of opportunity here is showing what the outcome is after an attempt, as some combinations yield nothing – it’s guesswork unless you really want to personally note every combination. There was one moment where I tried four different combinations and got nothing out of it, only creating frustration for me.

World for Two Steam Indie PC Review Environment Graphics Family Tree Gameplay
You’re in charge of the family tree – and it gets pretty complicated.

Another big pain point is the fact that you have a lot of waiting around to do in the early game – to create more genes, you’ll need an item that spawns from the blue flame outside the lab. This item has a spawn rate of one every 30 or so seconds, and upgrades to the machines in the lab require 10 of the same currency you utilize for the genes. As such, World for Two basically becomes an idle game – except you have to be tabbed in for the items to come about. With what little time I have to game, this really hurt my view of the game and I wish there was some way to expedite the tedious process, as I could have spent that time finding new combinations.

World for Two Steam Indie PC Review Environment Graphics Gif Flames
There’s a LOT of standing around waiting for flames in World for Two.

Audio

Worthy of note in World for Two is its prime background music. The stellar compositions are the only sound you’ll hear – there’s absolutely no audio in the game otherwise, whether it be speech, item activation, or anything else, so the music carries the weight of the auditory presentation. Coupled with the visuals, its presentation is nailed and will definitely be what hooks in gamers that are easily swayed by the familiar campy aesthetic.

One of the relaxing piano tracks from the game.

Visuals

As you can already see, what steals the show in World for Two is a killer visual experience. Always adorned with a picture-perfect reflection on the bottom of the screen and painstakingly-crafted environments, any moment of the gameplay could be screenshot and used as a wallpaper. Meshed with a silky-smooth 60fps and a day-night shift, this game gets high marks for mastering the hook of pixel-based shots.

World for Two Steam Indie PC Review Environment Graphics Gif

Plot

There’s not too much exposition given in World for Two – because not much is needed. As far as you can tell as the newly-built android, you’re the errand runner for the last human on Earth, a scientist who has crafted a laboratory perfect for building new life forms. Equipped with a Gene Printer, an Item Printer, and an Incubator, you have the tools for the task, but the ingredients are a different story. You can gather bits and pieces of what may have happened as you traverse each of the four areas which unlock after upgrades. For a title with its plot established within the first few minutes, there’s not much suspense to build after the fact.

So, why should you play it?

  • Unbelievable pixel visuals that will stun even weathered fans of the aesthetic.
  • A novel concept that a lot of people haven’t experienced.
  • Great for fans of experimentation and a stress-free game.

But why shouldn’t you play it?

  • Inevitability of waiting around to progress.
  • Repetitive nature.
  • Likelihood of making the same mistakes in creation with no guidance.

A press copy of World for Two was provided courtesy of the publisher.

Samurai Warriors 5 (PC) Review

It’s you vs. the world, and the world doesn’t stand a chance.

In fighting games, you typically fight someone one-on-one. In shooters, you typically fight a team. But in the genre of musou, you’re expected to fight thousands – all at once. Popularized (and trademarked) by the Dynasty Warriors franchise, publisher Koei Tecmo housed this franchise, as well as the Samurai Warriors franchise, for going on its third decade. It’s seen spinoffs incorporating franchises like Zelda and Gundam, proving ultimately most popular in the East, but still having a market in the West. The Samurai Warriors franchise has reached its fifth entry, and is looking to keep the genre relevant after all these years.

Samurai Warriors 5 Review Nobunaga
The presentation of Samurai Warriors 5 is pristine – gorgeous watercolored backdrops accompany in-game cutscenes with emphatic voice acting.

Plot

The storytelling within Samurai Warriors 5 is stellar, and will be a great time for those compelled by the feudal history and warring culture of 15th Century Japan. There are plenty of cutscenes that extend to several minutes to give the player a good idea of each character’s personality – there’s no shortage of characters, as you’ll encounter several named allies and foes on each March. While the main character is presented with plenty of options on how to move forward, though, there’s zero input from the player – a disappointment, as branching paths would make a lot of sense in several situations. Nevertheless, as tedious as the gameplay may be, at least there’s ample story to back it up.

Samurai Warriors 5 Review Nobunaga Combo
In this photo: tons of bodies strewn about, a 326 combo, and a tutorial. Par for the course for a musou!

Gameplay

It’s time to break down how Samurai Warriors 5 and musou’s in general play: it’s you vs. the world, and the world doesn’t stand a chance. One look across the battlefield and you’ll see dozens or even hundreds of enemies at any given point. Consider yourself a god amongst men, as your battle-trained enemies will perish in one or two hits as you carve a path to your next commander. Even then, these baddies will succumb to well-placed combos as you juggle and stun-lock them into submission. It’s an irrefutable fact that no game genre will make you feel more powerful than a musou.

So, having the power to crush everything in your path with little to no resistance – how does that pan out? Well, to some, it’s welcome to feel fully in-control and to let off steam, but with no challenge means a fraction of the reward of falling an enemy in any other game. As such, I had to play Samurai Warriors 5 in bursts, as it almost felt like a chore navigating a large battlefield with nothing standing in my way. It didn’t help that the convoluted menus with tons of systems and no depth felt like more work than it was worth.

Samurai Warriors 5 Review Nobunaga Horse
You’ll be seeing your equine a lot to expedite moving from point A to B.

Visuals

The visuals of Samurai Warriors 5 are a mixed bag. While the gameplay/combat is as smooth as silk, the graphics were sacrificed to make that happen. Cel-shaded/muddy characters aren’t anything to write home about, but I did enjoy seeing a wealth of expression and emotion in their faces during cutscenes. All things considered, I’d prefer the game not experiencing any slowdowns or stutters like it does now than it being too graphically-intensive to run well.

Audio

The sounds of Samurai Warriors 5 fare better than its visuals. Sword slashes are succinct, characters are voice-acted by experts, and the music is appropriate for the time period involved. Whatever weapon you have equipped, you can expect a mighty whack, thomp, thud, etc. to follow after your swing. Characters will laugh, shout, cry, and groan with some oomph to their performance. I usually put my own music over action games, but opted not to with the fitting soundtrack to the battles. This is an area where the game shines.

So, why should you play it?

  • You want to devastate hundreds of enemies on-screen (with little/no fear of failure) after a long day.
  • You’re compelled by feudal Japan and love a good storyline.
  • You’re already familiar with the musou genre and have been waiting seven years for a new Samurai Warriors title.

But why shouldn’t you play it?

  • You want any semblance of a challenge in your video game.
  • You get bored of always having the upper hand.
  • You don’t have a controller – it’s troublesome on mouse/keyboard.

A press copy of Samurai Warriors 5 was provided courtesy of the publisher.

Orbital Bullet (PC) Review

I’ve been frequenting roguelite games ever since I first ran Rogue Legacy on my crappy laptop in 2013. The prospect of coming back to a game time and time again and getting something new out of it is the ultimate sign of replayability. With every impending death comes a gameplay tactic or two learned, increasing your chances of success in future runs. The genre is currently in a renaissance as Hades captured the hearts of thousands last year, earning the top spot of many GOTY lists. I have dozens of roguelites wishlisted on Steam that I’ll eventually get to, but for now, I’m keen to take a look at Orbital Bullet – one with a clever gimmick and a heap of polish despite it being in Early Access.

Dubbed “The 360° Roguelite,” it’s easy to grasp and hard to master this circular concept.

Gameplay

Getting into a roguelite is a bit of a challenge. There’s always a learning curve, a necessitation to figure out how the game operates, and how to make the most of a run before you’ll almost certainly perish – typically in the early-goings. Orbital Bullet gives you quite a bit of health to work with, but is home to blistering-fast enemies that are merciless. You’ll have to learn patterns and remind yourself to dodge just as much as shoot/pounce. There’s a welcome variety in enemy types, weapons, and skill trees, in addition to randomized perks, level layouts, and more to sufficiently provide the player with a new experience each time.

Combat entails both shooting your enemies with the option to bounce on them Mario-style. I found myself particularly loving the boomerang/bola gun, fitting in two powerful shots at the cost of one trigger pull. Mixing this in with ample traversal and getting around to dodging enough made for a strong run where I got through several biomes. Getting health refills after floor clears sure didn’t hurt, either! As far as roguelites go, Orbital Bullet is quite forgiving in how much damage you can take; this isn’t a bad thing, as I love feeling strong in video games.

Audio

Orbital Bullet‘s score is absolutely massive – the instant you get past the tutorial, it ramps into high gear. I’d love to have shared it in the video below, but my amateur nature tuned the game audio too low, so enjoy it within the announcement trailer above. As far as weapon sounds go, it’s pretty standard fare of bangs and booms – the music is the highlight here.

Visuals

Opting for a cross between pixel and realistic aesthetic, Orbital Bullet boasts pretty colors and makes great use of them with compelling terrains. There’s a vast difference between biomes as you progress through levels, not just being the same thing nonstop. Bright colors accompany your shots and enemy clears, all moving along quickly with the refresh rate of your monitor (in my case, with 0 slowdowns at 144fps.)

So, why should you play it?

  • You enjoy visceral, tight action-platforming gameplay.
  • A bangin’ soundtrack is your ideal background to slaying doomed enemies.
  • You want a different experience every time you come to a game.

But why shouldn’t you play it?

  • The prospect of high difficulty/possible motion sickness puts you off.
  • Too much happening on-screen is a regular occurrence.

A review code on PC was provided for the purpose of this review.

Mass Effect 3: Legendary Edition (PC) Review

To talk about Mass Effect 3 and not mention its ending is a bit of an impossibility, so rest assured that we’ll get to that later on. But, let me start in saying that this is the quintessential sci-fi action experience in spite of what takes place in its conclusion. When I think about playing a hero in a game, I want to control an all-powerful, versatile, masterful warrior that is respected by comrades, feared by foes, and earns their high regard every step of the way – I feel no game franchise creates this fantasy better than Mass Effect, and it comes to a head in its final instalment.

Garrus Vakarian: calibrated for 4k.

GAMEPLAY

Mass Effect 3 sees Commander Shepard face an overwhelming Reaper invasion – so when Shepard takes to the battlefield, they have to be at their best in sync with tons of biotic/tech powers to survive the onslaught. There’s more freedom in choosing what powers Shepard has in 3 instead of being locked to a few in 2 – my go-to Vanguard loadout sees Shepard jump from enemy to enemy with Biotic Charge, unleashing Nova to topple nearby enemies, and busting out Shockwave in tight spots. To manage the recharge time on these powers, I limited the weapons to a light shotgun and the overpowered silenced pistol unlocked in The Citadel DLC.

Outside of combat, Shepard can navigate a few locales within the Citadel, carefully scan Reaper-infested galaxies for points of interest, and converse with squadmates aboard the Normandy. Conversation paths have been simplified to two options in most conversations, but you’ll still have to dedicate to Paragon/Renegade for vital conversation points – especially in the final minutes requiring a perfect score to unlock the final dialogue option, something I still didn’t manage to do in my playthrough.

Familiar faces will return at every corner – rewarding players for choices in previous titles thanks to imported saves.

VISUALS

The most recent of the three titles included in the Legendary Edition, not much had to be done to make an already-pretty game look even better. That being said, it’s still an improvement seeing Mass Effect 3 in an even better light than it previously was in, thanks to more graphics options and the upres to 4K. A silky-smooth unlocked framerate was the cherry on top, with not a single slowdown occurring even in heated battles and flying across the map taking place. Draw distance is excellent, and large vistas make for great photo mode usage.

AUDIO

Mass Effect 3 employed new musicians to handle the game’s score, and, unfortunately, there isn’t much to write home about when it comes to memorability. While the music is never inappropriate, I can’t recall a single standout track like I could for the first two games. The best I can say is that it’s serviceable and gets the job done, but isn’t on the level of what Jack Wall crafted in the past. On the other hand, weapon fire and Reaper invasions sound massive – the bloodcurdling cry of a Banshee overbearing everything else on the battlefield still gives me chills. Plus, the voice acting performances are amazing – your friends are endearing, your foes menacing.

Oh boy. Here’s where it gets interesting.

PLOT

I’ve purposely saved the plot of the game for last – it’s the most contentious aspect of Mass Effect 3 and is still being talked about to this day. To continue and conclude a space epic was no small task, but BioWare provided quite a lot of closure to this saga. Almost every significant (and a ton of not-so-significant) character returns in some form in the events of Mass Effect 3; you’ll see squadmates from 1 and 2 lay their life on the line for you – or loathe you, depending on your past actions. You still have a lot of say over how the game plays out, thanks to plenty of turning-point dialogue options and courses of action. It’s exceptionally hard to save some lives as certain conditions have to be met, but it’s possible with enough effort and know-how.

THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING?

And here’s the hot take – I think Mass Effect 3 has an excellent ending. You are given three courses of action, all of which are vastly different, and you see the weight of your actions directly after your choice is made. Everything you’ve accomplished to this point culminates in one last choice that speaks about the kind of Shepard you’re playing. There’s pros and cons to every single choice, and large implications about the future and the past that go into what you decide.

Back in 2012, when Mass Effect 3 was released in its original form, there was a lack of closure to this ending – this was later remedied with free DLC to showcase what Shepard’s sacrifice meant. In the Legendary Edition, with all of the paid DLC attached, I feel like I fully completed Shepard’s story in all of its bravado, so this lasting final choice to destroy the Reapers – a goal since early on in Mass Effect 1 – was a perfect, logical action. Earning the “Shepard Lives” ending made it that much sweeter. Now, if only BioWare embraced the Indoctrination Theory

So, why should you play it?

  • The best combat in the series, and arguably in sci-fi action gaming.
  • Tons of full DLC that you may have missed is included.
  • See your old characters get a fulfilling ending/conclusion.

But why shouldn’t you play it?

  • You’re still bitter about the ending and your mind can’t be changed.
  • You skipped ME1 – you’ll miss out on a LOT.

Mass Effect 2: Legendary Edition (PC) Review

“Choices matter.” This is a big selling point in modern narratives for video games, as the likes of Telltale and DONTNOD had us questioning our decisions in games such as The Walking Dead and Life is Strange. But what if the choices you made decide if several characters you’ve come to care about live or die? What if, during the experience, you begin to feel the weight of what you’ve done in a past game, too?

Mass Effect 2 does just this, following up the sci-fi epic that preceded it with the chance to import your save file helming quite a few big decisions made in the first title. With this and the ever-looming “suicide mission” impending at the end of the game, it’s widely-regarded as the best entry in the franchise thanks to its new combat style, the depth in choices, a bevy of new likeable squadmates, and a serious sense of polish. So, how does the Legendary Edition fare, after following up the essential first game?

Mass Effect Legendary Edition PC PS4 Xbox Jack
Jack packs a punch, and is one of many squadmates to meet across the galaxy.

Plot

Mass Effect 2 takes a narrative turn from Mass Effect 1 – Shepard gets taken down in the intro of the game and is presumed dead by all. That is, until Cerberus, mentioned as a pro-human antagonist in a fleeting side mission in 1, revives the Commander after 2 years of preparation. It is then made apparent that The Collectors, a cell of the Reapers, serve as the immediate threat to the galaxy. To combat them, Shepard must recruit several of the galaxy’s best fighters, minds, and allies for a head-on fight with a devastating enemy. It’s frequently dubbed as a “suicide mission”, and it will be unless you meet certain criteria throughout the game.

Mass Effect Legendary Edition PC PS4 Xbox Collectors
The Collectors are here to add Shepard to their lovely collection.

The meat of Mass Effect 2‘s story is spent preparing for the Omega-4 Relay jump. To do so, Shepard travels to several reaches to recruit everyone from familiar faces in Garrus/Tali to charming newcomers like Mordin and Grunt. I found it annoying how everyone you come in contact with dreads you working for Cerberus, but it reinforces how dubious the organization is as a foreshadowing for the third game. After some time on the ship, each ally will request your help in a personal matter they’d like taken care of before the suicide mission. Successful completion of these loyalty missions betters their chance for survival in the endgame, and gives them worthy character-building within some fun adventures. It’s possible for everyone to survive the suicide mission – and also possible for everyone to die. In my initial playthrough as a teen, I sped through the game and felt awful seeing them perish. I ensured my later playthrough had everyone coming home safe and sound – even Jacob.

Gameplay

The weak point of Mass Effect 1 is the combat – it’s barely functional as a cover shooter with baseline biotic powers and no more than a handful of different weapons. This got an overhaul for the second game, feeling more fleshed-out thanks to refined powers and a solid selection of guns. I have the most fun as a Vanguard, a high-risk/high-reward class with the powers Biotic Charge and Shockwave. The charge lets Shepard fly across the battlefield straight into an enemy, refilling their barrier and knocking enemies back at higher levels; the caveat to this class is only having access to SMGs and shotguns, leaving long-range combat out of the question. If you’re more catered to weapons, then Soldier is for you, letting you use any weapon in the game and punishing enemies with Adrenaline Burst. There’s options for any playstyle you’d prefer.

I enjoy a good cover shooter, but I felt that Mass Effect 2 only just found its footing before reaching a considerable peak in 3. 2 lags behind the third entry due to restricting weapon types per class, having less of a punch to each ability, and forcing you into cover for more than 50% of the duration of your encounters. There was more than one occasion where I was a few feet away from an enemy, saw their marker enabling me to charge, but the charge not going off. This frustration was compounded by Shepard shouting the same two lines whenever charge wouldn’t go off: “Can’t target them!” and “I can’t reach them!” reside in my brain to this point. Nevertheless, comparing 2 to 1, combat is a step in the right direction – enemies are formidable, allies are useful, and it’s a pretty good time.

Mass Effect Legendary Edition PC PS4 Xbox Galaxy Citadel
There’s so much to do in Mass Effect 2 – whether it be planet scanning, revisiting the Citadel, or surprise-meeting up with ME1 characters.

Outside of fighting across the galaxy, exploring and interacting is still a shining feat in Mass Effect 2. Scanning planets for materials is an engaging, satisfying use of time between missions. Paragon and Renegade choices now coincide with quick-time events during conversations that bring about compelling dialog and actions from Shepard at key moments. It’s great checking up on squadmates on the Normandy and figuring out who to romance, with three great (canon) options. There’s a strong amount of extra missions before the Collector fight, too.

Visuals

Much like Mass Effect 1, the visual upgrade is nominal and passable – shadow usage and varying environments make this better eye candy than the first title, but again, it’s only a real game-changer if you’re making the jump to 4K. Cutscenes getting an overhaul is welcome – you’ll see the mass effects being used plenty in your journey across the galaxy, so its animation had better look that good. I did notice a bug left in from the original version of 2 – when running across the Normandy after focusing on something, Shepard’s head would lock into place looking at the ground, creating a disturbing visual that still hasn’t been patched after all this time. Regardless, the game looks plenty fine, and it’s not a point of contention.

Mass Effect Legendary Edition PC PS4 Xbox Visuals Miranda
Once again, character models are prettier than before – that’s what Miranda was intended for!

Audio

Some of the soundtrack from Mass Effect 1 gets re-used in 2 – because it’s so downright perfect. Enter Shep’s cabin and your radio can blast the “Virmire Ride” theme among other tracks. Jack Wall returns to compose the score for 2, and delivers yet another powerful performance. “The Illusive Man” track that accompanies the closure of each mission rewards the player’s efforts in triumphant mystique. “The Lazarus Project” is an inquisitive piece that plays alongside Shepard being brought back to the land of the living. “Suicide Mission” serves as a guiding force in an impossible task, designed to uplift the player to take on the Collector base. It’s another score worthy of praise, comprehensive and a thrill at every turn.

In firefights, guns don’t all sound the same like they did in 1. One-shot sniper rifles carry with them a thunderous crack, whereas rapid-fire SMGs are a flurry of shell casings that hit the floor. Everything cuts out during a devastating Biotic Charge, where a Shockwave sends bass-laden ripples underground. Voice acting gets an upgrade, too – with more characters comes more personalities, and now more than one or two actors are used for each alien race.

The best of the three?

Mass Effect 2 regularly gets regarded as the best part of the franchise – and as much as I love it, I wouldn’t echo this sentiment. I found that BioWare branched out far in this game, and made plenty of quality-of-life improvements over the first game. However, the experimentation didn’t always pan out. Mass Effect 2 adheres to a formula – get a squadmate, let them sit on the ship a while, get their loyalty mission, do it, and either romance them or let them chill until they’re needed at the end. You’ll undoubtedly pick favorites – Grunt is invaluable in combat due to his tankiness, and others have great banter due to colorful personalities that will appeal to players differently. So members like Jacob, Samara, and the DLC characters Zaeed/Kasumi were unnecessary for a long extent. The formulaic nature also applies to combat level design – enter an area with cover, enemies will spawn in seconds, dispatch them, rinse/repeat. If the weapons/abilities weren’t so fun, this would get stale quickly, but at least there’s ample variety between enemy types. As soon as the combat came in 3, I saw immediate improvements – but that’s for next time. No matter which game is best, 2 is addictive, rewarding, and still a blast in the Legendary Edition form.

So, why should you play it?

  • Vast improvements over Mass Effect 1, so good that some skip the first game entirely
  • Side missions and activities are just as, if not more, fun than the required questline
  • Huge replayability thanks to Paragon/Renegade routes and differing combat playstyles

But why shouldn’t you play it?

  • Some glitches still remain from the original release, but nothing game-breaking
  • Time-consuming: not rewarding for gamers that don’t see merit in completion

Mass Effect 1: Legendary Edition (PC) Review

Mass Effect fans have had their patience tested for nearly a decade now. The initial endings of the third entry left a lot of fans dissatisfied, and Mass Effect: Andromeda was polarizing at best to players and critics alike. Across the years, BioWare social media comments sections always seemed to have one comment in every thread: “Remaster the original trilogy!”

That time has finally come, as this collection, dubbed the Legendary Edition, incorporates all of the DLC of the entire trilogy, with upscaled visuals and quality-of-life improvements to shake off the age of the sci-fi series’ initial run. I’ll be reviewing this trilogy in three parts, as each entry warrants its own focus. With that being said, how does the game that started it all fare with a new coat of paint?

Mass Effect Legendary Edition
There’s lots to do before taking on your first Reaper.

Plot

Mass Effect‘s on-the-nose commentary of xenophobia/racism has aged like fine wine – whether you choose to be a virtuous Paragon or delve down the road of Renegade, Shepard tackles conversations with poise and certainty that makes him a master negotiator in every situation. You’ll need it to take on a galactic council, tense hostage situations, and even avoiding a final conflict is possible with the right dialogue dedication. Mass Effect was a pioneer in “choices matter” carrying consequences so severe they carry onto other games, which is as simple as starting Mass Effect 2 from the launcher.

Gameplay

While the second/third Mass Effect entries draw direct comparisons to the Gears of War series due to the tried-and-true formula of “sit in cover, shoot for a few seconds, rinse and repeat”, Mass Effect 1 has less of an emphasis on cover and more on acclimating to powers/weapons necessary for the situation. The guns may be less pronounced and the powers more basic, but the visceral nature of fights and battlefields are switched up a bit more than 2 and 3. When you’re not fighting geth/baddies, you’ll navigate the Citadel, the Galaxy Map, and conversate with crewmates. A big QoL change here is a more pronounced sprint outside of battle and a meter to better gauge it. The Mako also boasts new controls, so it only flies all over the place a fraction of the time it used to.

Visuals

Back in the day, Mass Effect was a pretty sight to see, but a modernization was necessary for the remaster as this title is sitting at 14 years old at this point. I played in 1080p back then and I’m restricted to that resolution now, so it wasn’t a drastic change on my screens. 4K players will get a nice surprise, though. Better yet, the game runs at a buttery-smooth 144fps at all times except theatrical cutscenes. Those got the remaster treatment as well, and are truly gorgeous.

Character models get a nice touch-up, but don’t expect next-gen visuals.

Audio

My personal highlight of the game is the bangin’ soundtrack from the likes of Jack Wall, Richard Jacques, Sam Hulick, and others. Whether it’s the enchanting Galaxy Map backdrop, the daunting Critical Mission Failure theme that greets your deaths, or the inquisitive Presidium jingle, you’ll want to keep the music tab cranked at all times. In addition, the weapons no longer all sound the same – unique gunfire was recorded across each gun type and model, adding an adequate differential for different combat situations.

The Biggest Improvements

Sometimes remasters are just reskins, and problems aren’t solved after several years of lying dormant. Mass Effect: Legendary Edition solves some of the biggest complaints that plagued the otherwise near-perfect initial entry. Countless memes have spawned from the long wait times spent on elevators – these now only last as long as the conversations within the lifts do, and have been shortened to mere seconds when no one talks. The Mako controls are considerably better, but the terrain traversal issues stem from the mountainous obstacles that are still a pain to get across. Enemies no longer only say “I WILL DESTROY YOU!” and Shepard has more lines than “I’VE LOST SHIELDS!”.

Mass Effect Legendary Edition Mako
The Mako: less jank than before, but you still have to deal with mountains.

Nostalgia Goggles Off: The Cons

As nice as the improvements to Mass Effect are in Legendary Edition, it still isn’t the perfect sci-fi game. Combat was restrictive compared to the series’ later games, which found its footing as a cover shooter better thanks to tons more options as to how encounters played out. I spent numerous minutes of game time sifting through inventory deciding what was best and what to scrap – a comparison system would have saved tons of time. Fighting Thresher Maws in a Mako were a time-sink with little reward. Romance felt like an easy decision, and I would have felt challenged to choose between Liara and Tali if the latter had an option in 1. Nitpicks aside, the game is fully-functional and a good time after all these years.

Conclusion

We got what we wanted, and what we deserved, with Mass Effect: Legendary Edition. It’s a familiar experience, but fixes the few things that needed attention. The only reason this review didn’t come out sooner was because I picked up Mass Effect 2 after the rush of this game and haven’t been able to put it down. This serves as a great entry point as much as it is a stroll down my youthful nostalgia of exploring this game back in the day.

So, why should you play it?

  • Excellent dialogue where tough choices really do matter.
  • Soundtrack for the ages, guaranteed to get stuck in your head.
  • Varied combat that keeps you on your toes.

But why shouldn’t you play it?

  • Not a huge visual overhaul over the original product.
  • Too dialogue-heavy for those looking for nothing but action.

TASOMACHI: Behind the Twilight Review – PC

nocras is a name in the gaming industry you may not know, but one that deserves to be known. This individual is an environmental artist that has worked on the likes of Final Fantasy XIV, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and much more. Notable for grand-scale creations, nocras is an artist that 47k Twitter users follow closely, across language barriers and more.

nocras’ latest venture is TASOMACHI: Behind the Twilight. One look at screenshots and one may be in awe at the vibrant, elaborate environments broadcast straight from nocras’ vision. Thankfully, there’s more to it than just that, as TASOMACHI serves as a platformer/collectathon in the vein of Super Mario Odyssey and the like.

I could have screenshot any moment of the game and it would prove to be a looker.

GAMEPLAY/PLOT

TASOMACHI tasks the player with navigating towns and collecting Sources of Earth to repair their airship. These are hidden in bushes, the ground, and in other hard-to-reach places, demanding the player to platform their way across town. Along the way, they will encounter shrines in the towns with four platforming challenges each. Once completed, the towns’ mysterious fog disappears and the cat-like villagers return.

VISUALS

Some of the gorgeous environments you’ll explore, scattered with Chinese-style architecture.

Likely the most significant aspect of why TASOMACHI is moving copies is thanks to the mind of nocras. Together with developer Orbital Express, the atmosphere, inspired by a Chinese imperial aesthetic, is eye candy. It feels worthwhile to complete the shrines and make the towns look abuzz with no obfuscation from the fog, a true night-and-day difference. While architecture gets a bit redundant, the color scheme between towns sets them apart enough thanks to varying level design.

AUDIO

Another big draw that I didn’t realize until I took a gander at the Steam page was that Ujico/Snail’s House provided the music for the game. This musical artist is near and dear to me, as they provided the backdrop for some hilarious TF2 SFM videos, and can stretch from quirky bops to scenic jams across their discography. They delivered a standup job in TASOMACHI, providing ambient grace in exploration sections and upbeat tracks during platform dungeons.

CASUAL

Those looking for a relaxed time, look no further. There’s no combat in TASOMACHI: Behind the Twilight, and you’ll only lose a few seconds if you fall during a platform challenge. This laid-back pace will make it welcoming for casual players seeking pretty sights and sounds.

Towns are shrouded in fog until you clear platforming challenges within shrines.

CONS

Unfortunately, there are still some pain points within this game. The movement is fairly tight, a necessity for platformers, but requires some getting used to since it’s so floaty. One ability you unlock, “boost”, feels miniscule and nothing like a dash you may see in games within the genre. Text and animation feels similar to some that I’ve seen in early-access/shovelware titles, but not jarring enough to be more than a nitpick. Worse off, I encountered a crash every time I attempted to load the third town. This occurred within a mere 2 hours of gameplay and near to game completion, so it truly hampered the mood. Here’s hoping this gets patched soon.

CONCLUSION

Nevertheless, there’s potential to be had with TASOMACHI: Behind the Twilight. It’s undoubtedly gorgeous, an aural pleasure, and a strong first solo effort for nocras. Perhaps the $20 price tag is a bit steep for the state the game’s in, as it currently sits with a “mixed” rating on Steam, but with updates, this could become something great.

So, why should you play it?

  • Relaxed, casual game to experience at your own pace.
  • Bangin’ soundtrack from Ujico/Snail House.
  • Unreal environments.

But why shouldn’t you play it?

  • Game-breaking bug in my build.
  • Some platform challenges are a bit too tough, and need to be skipped.
One of several moments I had to stop and stare. And screenshot.

A PC code was provided for the purpose of this review.