Tales of Arise – Review

Tales of Arise is Bandai Namco’s latest in the Tales series of video games that spans seventeen games dating back to Tales of Phantasia in 1995.  Yes – we’re as impressed as you are. With a series that has been ongoing for the last 26 years, what can you expect in terms of originality and new ideas and concepts?  Well – with a powerhouse like Bandai Namco, there really is no limit.  

The Plot

You start your journey in Tales of Arise as a nameless, faceless Dahnan slave who, beyond a year ago, remembers nothing.  So, the slaves who you live among have taken to fondly calling you Iron Mask due to the mask of iron that you wear which covers your whole head, making it quite difficult to eat as our protagonist humorously mentions at some point in your journey. You, as all heroes should be, are a fierce defender of justice, and the mere sight of injustices set you into action to protect those who fall victim to it, and your inability to feel pain is what aids you in this mission.  As previously mentioned, you are a Dahnan slave on your homeworld of Dahna.  Your world was conquered by the inhabitants of the twin planet of Rena and has since been controlled by Renans, and the five High Lords who hunger for the power they harvest from Dahna to compete in a contest to become the Sovereign of Rena, known as the Crown Contest. As the game sets off, our main protagonist, whose name is later revealed to be Alphen, meets the other main protagonist who takes the form of a young Renan girl, known as Shionne.  Shionne has come to Dahna on her own agenda which happens to align with Alphen’s and so, an unlikely partnership is formed between oppressed and oppressor. In this, you find out that Shionne carries a powerful artifact within her, known as a master core, that has the ability to harness firepower.  Alphen unlocks this core even further and is able to draw a sword out of it.  This sword damages all who we wield it, but Alphen’s inability to feel pain and Shionne’s ability to heal him make them an unbreakable partnership and an unstoppable force. In your quest of liberating Alphen’s homeworld, you meet many interesting characters along the way.  These include playable characters that you can control and battle with, as well as the various resistance groups and allies you find scattered throughout your journey.  Many friends are made, and some are lost, in your quest for liberation.

The Game

As mentioned, your primary objective is to defeat and overthrow the five High Lords who control various regions of Dahna.  Each High Lord has a master core which gives them the ability to harness astral energy to allow them to compete to be named sovereign in the Crown Contest, which happens every seven years.  This astral energy is harnessed from the land of Dahna and from the Dahnans themselves through master core stones embedded in their hands.  The Renan's, as well as a select few Dahnans, are able to wield this Astral energy in the form of magical abilities known as Mystic Artes. There are five High Lords and thus there are five regions of Dahna which each harvest one type of Astral energy.  The five regions of Dahna, which must be liberated in order to progress with the game are (in the order that they appear) Calaglia, where our journey starts, Cyslodia, Elde Menancia, Mahag Saar, and, finally, Ganath Haros.  The boss of an area must first be defeated, and the area liberated before you are able to progress to the next area.  However, you are able to travel back to areas you have already liberated.  This may seem like an exercise in futility but there are some side quests given by various NPCs in these areas that can aid you in going forward.  There are also a few giant beasts to slay that can’t be taken on too early – especially the one in Calaglia (think frost troll on the way to High Hrothgar times a thousand – don’t take this guy on too soon). The world and realms of Tales of Arise are breathtaking and well put together. Each area has its own uniqueness, and the world has been assembled in an absolutely spectacular way.  I often found myself marveling at some weird creature or plant, as well as taking in the views that are often seen in Dahna.   The battle system uses the Linear Motion Battle System, which is well known throughout the Tales series.  This system allows all characters within the battlefield to move around and interact with their opponents and allies.  The linear aspect always ensures that you have a line of sight on your targeted opponent, no matter how you move around the battlefield.  The combat mechanics allow you to dodge and “queue up” attacks with a mixture of Artes and simple attacks.  This can be done for both ground and air attacks, essentially allowing the player to make up to 12 combo moves if timed and executed well.  Artes require AP which is used and regenerated throughout the battle, support, and healing abilities require CP which are only replenished through rest, potions, or food.  There are also special attacks that “warm-up” from successful attacks and evades, as well as over limit mode which allows you to execute as many Artes as the timer will allow without expending any AP.  This mode also allows the player to execute a Mystic Arte, which is an overpowered super attack that wreaks havoc on the battlefield.  

Final Thoughts

I thoroughly enjoyed taking on the role of the Blazing Sword of Calaglia and setting off with my companions to overthrow the Renan Lords and liberate Calaglia. The anime-style artwork in Tales of Arise really adds to the overall feel of the game and I often felt like I was living this incredible story in a graphic novel, rather than just playing a video game. The developing friendships between the various party members, as well as the humor and wit, threw throughout the game kept me entertained in even some of the duller moments. The story and character development keep you on the edge of your sit with unexpected twists and jaw-dropping climaxes.  The years and experiences from before this story that molded and shaped the characters to be who they are in Tale of Arise are evident and can be seen just by watching the way they interact with each other, those around them, the world, and in battles.  There is a depth of history shown in these interactions far greater than just this story can hold. Tales of Arise is a fantastically put-together RPG in all elements.  The story is rich and rewarding, the landscape is incredible, and the character development is almost real. Coupled with a battle system that is unique to the Tales series and improved with each new installment of this 26-year long series, it is safe to say that Tale of Arise is in a class of its own and absolutely dominates in the RPG genre. After many wonderful hours spent in Tales of Arise, I award this incredible game a whopping 9 and a half out of 10 stars!

A big thank you once again to Prima Interactive for giving us a chance to play this masterpiece.  

Read more

NBA 2K22 – Review

As with all sporting games, another year sees another edition of our popular sport games.  Now, for some, they don’t much see the point of getting the “same game” year in and year out.  For the fans of the genre, we know that things can change drastically in a year.

The Game

NBA 2K22 is the latest version of 2K Games and 2K Sports popular basketball game.  This version has seen some major overhauls to the mechanics of how the game plays out, especially within the defensive mechanisms.  Gone are the days of just breezing through the zone as if the defenders were nothing but mist as pump your way to that layup.  Now blocks and box outs really do get in the way and the player must use tactics and creativity to penetrate the zone and find those keys passes to open up lanes or distribute the ball to players in a better position. As with previous versions of the popular NBA gaming title, players get to choose from various game modes to take on and tickle any and all of their Basketball fancies.  These modes are; Play Now – get straight into the action and play a quick game in any league, with any team that is available in game. MyTEAM – a collector’s area where you open card packs, and have the option of buying more, to build your very own team to play with and compete against other teams online.  The card packs include players – both new and legacy, ball parks, uniforms, coaches, logos, balls, and playbooks from top teams in the NBA and WNBA.  You start this mode up by naming your own team and then opening your starter packs.  Daily logins give you a pack a day to add to your ever-increasing collection.  There are micro-transactions available for those who want to build quickly and don’t mind spending a little extra. MyCAREER – following a story line, you take on the role of your custom built myPLAYER and forge a pathway to your destiny in the NBA.  Make real life decisions that have very real outcomes on your journey to the top, including where you start your career – college, G League or straight to the NBA.  Each choice comes with its own adversities. MyLEAGUE – a sort of fantasy team area where you build your own roster and see how you match up to other players online. This mode includes a full WNBA season as the new and improved myGM mode where you see how you would cut it as an NBA team general manager, including keeping players, sponsors, and fans happy. 2kTV – an ongoing talk-show that you can tune straight into from NBA2k20 Play your cards right – either in MyLEAGUE or MyTEAM, and you could find yourself with a powerhouse team consisting of Steph Curry, Joel Embiid, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and LeBron James.  Imagine that… Players who feel like a break from the grind and want to try their hand at something a little more creative can spend time creating their own custom kicks in the shoe creator are.  Choose brands like Nike, Jordans, Adidas and Under Armor and then select your low, mid or high cut and then go crazy as you take control over every aspect of the shoe design, from the lace eyelets to logo placements and more.  

MYCAREER

This year’s career mode sees the player take on the role of someone who has gained internet fame across various social media platforms since leaving high school.  This is a bit of a different start to your conventional high school hero baller story, and it adds it’s own interesting twists and turns to the story as your motives for pursuing a career in the NBA are questioned from the outset. As with previous career modes, before you dive in you must first build your character in NBA’s very detailed, yet highly daunting (especially if it’s your first time) MyPLAYER.  This looks very similar to previous years as you choose what your player looks like in looks, build and stats.  AND you get to choose their jersey number as we all know how important that is! If you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing here, feel free to look at guides and builds to get you started as you get to know the game and mechanics a bit better.  Throwing numbers into skills here just because it sounds good really can have an adverse effect on how you play later on as height, weight and wingspan have as much impact on your ability to play in the position you choose as handling, passing, shooting and defence does. As previously mentioned, you start your story with your manager, Ricky, who also just happens to be your long-time best friend.  In the opening dialogue you choose your next step to either go to college and play for some of the top college teams, grind it out in the G Leagues, or skip all this and go straight to the NBA. We’d recommend not going straight to the NBA as the other two options have some serious perks as they help you assign new points to your attributes and gain a bit of top tier game time before breaking onto the NBA scene. Both the college and G League routes have their own advantages and we’ve dropped them in here for you; College:
  • You’ll have a selection of ten schools, each with differing rewards for Badge Points.
  • Playing in the national tournament, and possibly winning it, will net you a large boost in Fans, which will help secure future endorsement opportunities.
  • Even if you choose to go to college, that doesn’t mean you can’t go to the G League; if you’re not satisfied with your projected draft status, you can elect to sign with the G League and then participate in the NBA Combine.
G League:
  • Unlike in college, playing in the G League will immediately reward you with Virtual Currency; VC is used to increase your attributes and purchase items throughout The City or Neighbourhood.
  • Receive a permanent five percent boost to MyPOINTS, which upgrades the max overall for your player.
  • Includes the post-game interviews that will be featured throughout your NBA journey.
  • Play against tougher competition than college.
We chose the college route because, you know, it’s college. Once you’ve chosen your college or G League team, and played through their respective leagues or tournaments, you’ll have the choice to go to the NBA Combine or take your chances with your current stats and jump straight to the NBA Draft Pick. The NBA Combine has the chance to drastically increase your Draft Pick status if you perform well at each of the six drills and win the scrimmage.  As with all high reward, comes high risk - if you perform poorly at the NBA Combine, this adversely affect your Draft Pick status. The six drills that you’ll have to get through are standing vertical, running vertical, lane agility, sprint shuttle and bench press.  We played this game on Xbox and so the success of each activity was determined by our ability to toggle between the triggers.  We all know you want to be the best, but don’t worry too much and force quit the game if you don’t top out on every drill – if you place in the top 15 of the NBA Combine, you can consider the whole ordeal a success. Once you’ve been drafted to the NBA team of your dreams, it’s all on you to make it work.  A small tip from us – it’s not all about scoring yourself as key passes and assists can see you get more match rating than putting them in yourself.  The game rewards teamwork over individual play. Getting consistent B or higher performances in games and attending practices is key here to climb from in the squad to team regular. One last thing that MyCAREER offers over and above a journey to the NBA Hall of Fame (hopefully), is the potential to take on a side hustle in the music or fashion industries.  While this may bring some hushed whispers and sideways glances from the basketball community as you find that hashtag worthy outfit or deliver coffee to The Game, these side ventures will help you earn more points to increase your max player rating as well as improve your overall marketability. You will get a choice of two agencies to help you in these pursuits.  We’ve broken down each agency for you here; Palmer Athletic:
  • More basketball focused.
  • The larger agency that rewards performance on the court; if MP performs well for his team, then he’ll see many sponsorships rather quickly.
  • If you perform poorly on the court, it’ll be difficult for you to advance.
Berry and Associates:
  • While performing on the court is desired, Berry and Associates also look to expand MP’s marketability through music and fashion.
  • The smaller agency that provides more attention to MP and its clients.
  • Even if MP doesn’t perform well for his team, Berry and Associates will still focus on making MP a social star
Both agencies will earn you 5 000 MVP points as well 25 points in various side hustle related aspects such as Corporate and NBA for Palmer Athletic, and music and fashion for Berry and Associates. Other than basketball, there’s plenty of things to do off court and around the city so take them time and full immerse yourself in everything that MyCAREER has to offer, including listening to the advice of your best friend. [caption id="attachment_6777" align="alignnone" width="2560"] NBA 2K21_20210415101602[/caption]

Final Thoughts

Having skipped NBA 2K21 and last played 2K20, the defensive changes were immediately noticeable as my usual rush and layup to bolster the score board before settling in and playing for assists didn’t work.  I had to radically change my play style, which at first was highly frustrating but once I got over myself and rose to the challenge, NBA 2K22 is worth the buy to get those improvements and experience a more real feeling in this top-notch basketball title. As usual, defending is not just one button and I enjoy the tactical approach of choosing to box out, block, or try and poach the ball while applying pressure without getting a personal foul. Defence has never been my strength in games like this and I usually rely on a swift counter and high point conversation rate to keep me ahead of my opponents but I did take the time to improve my defence – although chasing my man around the zone still proves difficult for me and many match rating points were lost due to my man shaking me and scoring a 3-pointer with enough space around him to park a fleet of jumbo jets. All in all, I enjoyed the time spent on NBA 2K22, including getting my butt handed to me on a silver platter in online games (I will return and avenge myself) and feel that 2K Games has once again risen to the task to give us a challenging yet rewarding, interesting, fun, and engaging basketball game. Here's the gameplay trailer to see for yourself the best that this game has to offer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OcUzwnA569M   I award NBA 2K22 a solid drive of 8 out of 10 stars.  

Thank you to our friends over at Prima Interactive for giving us the chance to review this game!

Read more

Hades – Review

Supergiant, a production house known for its preference of quality over quantity, has recently had the official launch of their rogue-like dungeon crawler, Hades. Hades spent a fair deal of time in early access and Supergiant really did use this time well to release a near flawless game with a challenged, yet rewarding, combat system, rich storytelling, and a good deal of quirky characters and humour thrown into the mix. We were lucky enough to delve into the depths of the Underworld and take on the role of the son of the Hades himself as we try to desperately battle our way out of its depths of darkness and answer a burning question we’ve had, as well as find the answers to new questions we pick up along the way.

The Game.

As previously mentioned, you take on control of the game’s hero, Zagreus.  Zagreus is a disgruntled teenager who is tired of living under his father’s roof and tries to escape the Underworld and make it to his relatives at Mount Olympus.  This looks a little different when your father is Hades, and you’re the prince of the Underworld. Along the way, in one of your many attempts to reach Mount Olympus and, more urgently, escape the Underworld, you are aided by your relatives who, obviously, are the Gods of the Greek Mythology.  Their aid changes for each run and by pairing different God’s aid, you can make for a rather interesting builds to take on the denizens of the Underworld. The game is a dungeon crawler in the best sense of the term and uses a hack-and-slash combat mechanic.  For those who find hack-and-slash mindless, Hades ups the ante and really requires the player to apply themselves as each foe follows different attack patterns and uses different attacks on you, so simply running it and hacking at them isn’t always (in fact rarely) the most effective approach.  Coupled with the varying aid you receive along the way and the fact that the labyrinth ahead of you changes every time you leave the House of Hades, the game really keeps you on your toes and trying to figure out the best way forward as every run really does look completely different. Death is a massive component of this game.  Ironic since you are in the underworld?  Maybe.  Hades uses death as the trigger to progress the story line and darkness that you earn in your runs through the Underworld can then be spent at the House of Hades to give you some persistent skills and abilities to make your next run a little easier.  So, in a sense, death is actually levelling up in Hades… With that being said, every death will see you remerging from the River Styx and into the House of Hades, only to be chastised by your father who seems rather disinterested in your attempts and quite annoyed by your rebellious behaviour.  He doesn’t get too involved as he firmly believes that the no one can escape the Underworld, thus making your attempts futile. In the House of Hades, you can interact with several characters. These are: Hades – The lord of darkness himself, and your father. As already mentioned, he seems more annoyed by your attempts than anything else. Achilles – Friend and mentor who has taught you in the way of weapons and combat from a young age.  He has made an assortment of infernal arms available to you unlock and use in your escape attempts. Nyx – The mother of Darkness and the mother who raised you and aids you in your attempts. Quite early in the story, it is revealed that she is the one who first got you into contact with the Olympians. Skelly – a mysterious “practice dummy” you can try your weapons against in your courtyard.  He seems to enjoy taking a beating and alludes to a benefactor who is paying him to be there to assist you.  He also sometimes gives useful tips on how to defeat enemies in your escape attempts. Cerberus – the guardian of the Underworld and your personal pet.  You can interact with him, and he is very fond of you.  So much so that he apparently ransacked the lounge in desperation when he found out about your first escape attempt. Along with these, there are various other characters that you can talk to and interact with both in the House of Hades and in your travels through the various planes of the Underworld. Each re-entry (sounds better than death) to the House of Hades will bring in new unique dialogue with all the NPCs there as the story progresses. Your quest to escape the depths of the Underworld will take you through different planes, each plant having a mini-boss encounter somewhere in the middle and a boss encounter in the last room, or area, of the plane who have just battled through. Each plane brings in new challenges and difficulties as you progress through the game and get closer and closer to achieving your goal of escape. The four areas that you encounter are Tartarus, Asphodel, Elysium, and the Temple of Styx. There is also a chance to enter the Chaos Gates and achieve some great boons, provided you survive the cost it takes to get them. At each death, you start again at the House of Hades and must battle all the way through each level to get to the next.  This is quite a grind, but it doesn’t feel that way all the time as each run produces a new unique layout, with new choices and boons, and new random enemy spawns in each room. The only room that stays the same is the final boss room for each level. Will of this randomly generated change, there really is no one way to run through the game as every player will have a completely unique experience.  

Final Thoughts.

After rewiring our thoughts around dying not being that bad in this game and actually being a part of it, and, sometimes, even looking forward to death just to see the latest happenings in the House of Hades and to level up your character a bit to make the next run a bit easier. This, mixed with a good deal of humour as you see the Olympians bicker amongst themselves for your favour, and their jealousy when you replace one of their boons with a better one from a different God.  This doesn’t always end so well as you then must defeat their rage at being rejected. Accepting the grind in this, as well as many other dungeon crawler titles is imperative if you plan on getting the most enjoyment out of it.  Especially since there are no campfires and checkpoints to fall back on as you progress.  You die in the Temple of Styx? Back to the House of Hades and all the way through Tartarus, Asphodel and Elysium again.  BUT – each run does get quicker and easier as you progress and for me, running through Tartarus and defeating the fury of the boss (hopefully you see what I did there) who is waiting for you is a quick farm and warm up to help me with the higher levels. Overall, Hades is one of the best rogue-like, dungeon crawler I have played in a long time. The rich storytelling, quirky NPCs and humour is enough to set this in a league of its own. Coupled with a challenged, yet highly rewarding combat system, the ever-shifting rooms of the Underworld and its unpredictable encounters really only serve to solidify this game at the top of its class. The art style, ease of play and the fact that you can just go and look out over the (surprisingly) beautiful planes of the Underworld in some areas again make this a cut above the rest. So – saying we have a game that is in a league of its own, top of its class and a cut above the rest really is a bold statement and to back it up, I can really only say one thing. Go and try it for yourself on whatever platform you choose as it really is on all of them, including MacOS and Nintendo Switch. Here’s the game’s official trailer to whet your appetite even more if you aren’t already frothing at the bit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91t0ha9x0AE With all that being said, I back my bold claim up and award Hades with a solid 9 and a half stars out of 10. This really is a game worth playing and spending hours in as you unlock the highly intriguing and mysterious story.

A big thank you to our friends over at Prima Interactive for giving us a chance to try this title out for ourselves.

Read more

Turtle Beach Recon Controller – Review

Turtle Beach is not a new name when it comes to gaming.  They are known as one of the leaders when it comes to headsets, especially in the console market, with their headsets starting at good quality and affordability, to their more elite headsets that go toe to toe with all the other “pro” headsets on the market. Recently, however, Turtle Beach has stepped out of its comfort zone and decided to take the matter into its own hands, or rather – your hands. The Turtle Beach Recon controller was recently released, and we got to spend some time with it in a very hands-on review (sorry, that’s the last one – maybe…). Here’s what we have to say about it with our Turtle Beach Recon Controller review.  

The Controller.

From the box to the look and feel of the controller itself, we can see that Turtle Beach means business with their breakout onto the controller market. The Recon Controller comes in two colours, black and white, with both versions being identical in design, features and feel beyond that. In the box, you get the controller itself (thankfully) with a 3.5mm jack, a 3m USB-A to USB-C braided cable and a little info package with a quick use guide, sticker, and more in-depth guide for those really looking to get the most out of the controller. Having already listed the braided cable, the Recon Turtle Beach is a wired controller.  Take what you will from that, both wired and wireless have their pros and cons.  The 3m length of the cable does mean that you can sit pretty much where you want, within logical reason, without the wire limiting you.  I, personally, have no issue with wired controllers and at least it prevents that dreaded mid-game dead battery panic. All of this is neatly, and securely, packaged in a box that shows you exactly what you’re getting.  

Features.

The Recon Controller is not just a standard controller.  It comes loaded with a host of features and literally puts all the control in your hands, all the time.  By this, we mean that there is no need to take your hands off the controller to do anything (except to take a sip of your chosen gaming nectar), or to take those critical seconds in a non-pausable online game to adjust sound settings in the console menu. These features are listed and explained below. FATIGUE-FREE AND COOLING ERGONOMICS – the Recon Controller has put a lot of thought into its in-hand comfort and ensured that buttons (including all the extra ones) are in easy to reach places so that there’s minimal strain and fatigue on your hands, ensuring that you can game for longer.  They have also added cooling grips that increase airflow between your skin and the controller surface to help those of us who suffer from chronic sweaty palms (GG Turtle Beach). SUPERHUMAN HEARING – Turtle Beach has included their signature feature from their headsets onto the Recon controller.  Superhuman hearing essentially highlights certain game-critical sounds for the user, like footsteps, reloads, and vehicle noises.  This can be easily turned on or off with a button located at the top of the controller.  Turtle Beach tested this feature on over 100 gamers and found that it kept gamers alive for up to 20% longer and improved the test group’s K/D by up to 40% on popular FPS titles.  Those may be some bold claims, but they have the study to back it up. TWO REMAPPABLE QUICK ACTION BUTTONS – arguably one of the best features on the Recon Controller (especially in my opinion) are the two extra buttons on the bottom of the controller. Compared to other controllers with these extra remappable buttons, I found that my fingers sat comfortably on these without having to readjust my grip (thank you, ergonomic design).  These buttons can be remapped to any of the other buttons on the controller, including stick clicks, and increase your speed of play by keeping your thumbs where they belong, controlling the movement.  You are also able to save up to 4 profiles of remapping to allow you to quickly change between games without going into a lengthy settings search. PRO-AIM FOCUS MODE – one of the remappable button's defaults settings is the pro-aim mode.  This feature tunes your thumbstick sensitivity to assist in enhancing your long-range accuracy.  Now I feel like I need to say this quickly – this is NOT aim-assist or aim-bot.  It merely slows or adjusts the sensitivity of your stick to one of four pre-determined settings to slow down on-screen movement.  A feature very similar to that on many gaming mice (mouses?) where it halves, or freezes, your DPI. ON CONTROLLER SOUND SETTINGS – the Recon controller allows you to adjust game and chat volume (only on Xbox) right from the controller.  No need to lift your hand off the controller to change volume or go into settings to get the right balance of the game to chat ratio.  You can do it easily, while on the trot, with the rockers at the top of the controller.  You can also quickly mute your mic from the controller – great for all those gamers who can’t seem to locate their mute function when they’re crunching on their chips or cookies while you’re trying to snap on heads, now it’s right under their nose – literally.     SOUND EQ CONTROLS – Turtle Beach has included four sound EQ profiles for you to further fine-tune your gaming experience.  These profiles are as follows; 1 – Signature sound (let Turtle Beach work the way it was made to). 2 – Bass boost. 3 – Bass and treble boost. 4 – Vocal boost.  

Our Thoughts.

From first opening the box and getting my hands on the recon controller, I was impressed with its design and build quality.  Turtle Beach really did not cut any corners with this, and it shows in the overall quality of the product. With me having rather large hands, I found all the buttons and controls were well within the comfort and I did not have to hold the controller in some weird, contortionist way to make full use of what the Recon is giving me like I have had to do with other controllers on the market with extra buttons.  For those of you with smaller hands - I let my wife have a good go on the Recon as well, and she also found the buttons easy to reach and the controller comfortable and easy to hold.  This really is a “one-size-fits-all” kind of controller.     One small hiccup I found while using the Recon was the plethora of fine-tuning, customize your gaming experience settings that it comes with.  My hiccup was not with the actual settings or a sheer number of them, I actually think it’s great that there is so much you can tweak and tune on it.  The hiccup came with my memory of what each one was or how it would benefit me… So the Recon controller does have a bit of a learning curve, at least for me it did, and I found myself often consulting the guides.  At first the longer guide and then the quick guide – I am learning and now don’t really need to look at the guides at all.  My only advice to first-time users would be to keep the guides close, and then easily accessible if you don’t use it for a while – think coming back to an RPG you haven’t played in a year and trying to remember what you were doing?  That’s the feeling I think you’d get with this one.     While the Turtle Beach Recon controller does have the extra remappable buttons, this controller is by no means a “pro” or “elite” tier controller.  That doesn’t mean it’s bad at all though. Just keep that in mind if you buy it expecting to get a Wolverine or Elite controller. What the Recon Controller is though, is a well-made, good controller that comes in at a very reasonable price (around R1300 at the time of this review). If you are looking at replacing your current Xbox controller, upgrade your gaming experience or to try and improve your skills, I would definitely recommend the Turtle Beach Recon controller to you.  If wires aren’t a thing for you, and even if they are – get over it (literally), you cannot go wrong with getting this controller and I guarantee that you will see improvement in your overall gaming experience.   In closing, I feel that the Turtle Beach Recon Controller gets a very solid 8 out of 10 stars.     For more on this controller, have a look at this preview video from Turtle Beach themselves.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9RZSNrWV5g&t=13s

Thank you to Apex Interactive for giving us the chance to get hands on (that really is the last one now) with this awesome piece of gaming tech!

Read more

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Wrath of the Druids – Review

This is a review for the first Assassin’s Creed Valhalla expansion – if you missed what we thought about the base game, have a look here. https://earlyaxes.co.za/assassins-creed-valhalla-review/ The good people over at the Assassin’s Creed studio have been working tirelessly since the release of their 12th major Assassin’s Creed title, Valhalla, in November 2020 to bring us the first expansion for the game. With us having enjoyed the base game so much, we were very eager to make our way over to the Emerald Isle and see what Wrath of the Druids had in store for us.

Overview

Set during the same time frame as the base game, Wrath of the Druids sees our hero head over to 9th Century Ireland after receiving an unexpected invitation from your long-lost cousin, Barid (Pronounced Bar-eeth) who just so happens to be the King of Dublin. Once in Dublin, your cousin greets you with open arms and gives you an overview of his city, the political climate of the country  He explains that a Flann Sinna is about to be inaugarated as the High-King of Ireland, and he would like help to gain favour and prominence with this new High-King.

The Game

With this being an expansion of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, the look and feel are practically the same, except that you are now treated to the beauty that is a 9th century Irish landscape – and it is stunning!  I would often find myself climbing up a tall mountain or building and be in awe of the spectacular views that I was seeing.  The team has really outdone themselves in this regard. With a new expansion comes new cities to explore, new territories to claim, and a new romance or two along the way – but we will leave those to you to discover. The claiming of territories works similarly to that of the base game, win favour with the king of that land to draw them to your side, defeating their enemies and allying them with High-King Flann.  You also join High-King Flann as he goes to war with the Northern Irish in his campaign to unite the whole of Ireland under one crown. This is where you uncover your true foe, which call themselves The Children of Danu, a dark druidic cult who believe the old ways are best and will stop at nothing to prevent Ireland from being under the rule of a Christian King.  As you work alongside King Barid and High-King Flann, you also work to uncover the identities of key members of The Children and eliminate them as their removal aligns with the campaign that you have lent your axe to. Along with helping High-King Flann and battling The Children, you also spend time helping your cousin, who you feel indebted to as his family took you in when you had no where to go, growing the influence of Dublin throughout Ireland as the center of all Irish trade.  To accomplish this you partner with Azar, who is the chief trader of Dublin, and together – well, you do all the heavy lifting, you work to take over trade posts and grow trade in Dublin and throughout Ireland.  Trade also allows you to get exotic armour, weapons, ship upgrades, homestead decorations, and other items from locations all around the world. Raiding is of course still there – what would a Viking game be with out the chance to go a Vikingr.  Instead of gathering resources for your homestead however, you now gather resources to improve your captured trade posts and improve trade and stock through them. There is also a newish feature (which I had not noticed in my review of Valhalla so if it was there – my apologies) is avenging the death of a fallen real-life player.  While running around cities and countryside, you will sometimes encounter the body of a slain Viking.  When accepting the quest, you are tasked with the duty to eliminate the foe, or foes, that resulted in their demise.  There is no real benefit to the game for this except for a little more EXP and some resources, but it does add a nice little feeling in your gut knowing that somewhere, out there in the world, you helped someone like you in the game – it’s not multiplayer but it’s nice.

Final Thoughts

With Wrath of the Druids bringing on an extra 13 plus hours on main objectives alone (yes – we got through all 13 of those hours and they were incredible) and another 5 or so hours on side quests (we are getting there), avenging fallen players (I really liked this little feature) as well as bringing some more breathtaking scenery to an already visually pleasing game, Wrath of the Druids surely did not disappoint. We loved every hour we spent immersed on the Emerald Isle and highly recommend this expansion if you love anything good in life. So - what’s stopping you?  Grab your axe, board your longship and let’s go a Vikingr in Ireland!   Like the base game, we award the Wrath of the Druids expansion a berserker score of 9 out of 10 stars!  

A big thank you again to Ubisoft and Prima Interactive for giving us the chance of playing this incredible game.

Read more

Outriders – Review

Outriders is the latest game from a popular game developer known for bringing us games like Life is Strange, Tomb Raider, Just Cause and Final Fantasy - Square Enix. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ED4o1WJFmDY  

Background

Around the middle of the 21st Century, mankind has destroyed and decimated the planet we call home (although the game itself admits that it does not know how we did it) and a select few have made the cut to board humanity’s last hope and take a voyage across the galaxy to find a new home in a planet that appears to be similar to Earth.  This planet is known as Enoch. You play as an Outrider, one of an elite team chosen to land first and scout out the surface of the planet to see if it is in fact inhabitable and where the best place to set up humanity’s new home would be on Enoch.     All seems like a pretty straight forward process in the first couple of minutes after landing as you set out to gather data from the beacons that were launched an undisclosed amount of time before you arrived.  On locating the second beacon and radioing to the ship holding all of mankind’s remaining hope and what it needs to survive (both in people and resources) is when you encounter something the likes of which humans have never seen – the Anomaly. Without giving too much more away – the Anomaly is one of the main issues that mankind faces on Enoch and is the sole cause for turning a pretty simple recolonization of a planet into something that is “game worthy.” During this mission, you are critically injured and put back into cryo so that your life may be saved.  Not all goes to plan and you are woken sometime later to a world rife with chaos and a long way off from the hope and dream of those that had set out from Earth.  

The Game

This game is a third-person action role paying shooter where you take on the identity of Outrider, a soldier with a can-do attitude and one of the best Outriders to land on Enoch. The game consists of elements that remind me a lot of Gears of War, Mass Effect, Destiny and Borderlands – yet this all somehow comes together to create a rather interesting way with a player that uses brutal powers and abilities to overcome their foes in a foreign landscape. The game has some mind breaking moments as you work on side missions to uncover a dark history that has all transpired while you were sleeping. There are four playable classes in Outriders that you can choose from, and players can create new characters to try out all of them. The classes are Technomancer – a long-range sniper and control class, Pyromancer – a mid-range assault and heavy damage class, Trickster – a close-range mobility class and Devastator – a close-range tank class. The game allows you to play any class however you want (fancy sniping with a tank? Why not) but will reward you for playing the class the way it was designed to be a player – especially since you only heal in very specific ways for each class.     Combat can seem a little repetitive as you fight wave after wave of enemies in a dungeon-delving way but can still throw some massive curve balls at you just as you think you are mastering a particular type of enemy. Square Enix took “be aggressive” to heart when building the combat mechanics into this game in more than one way. Firstly – you need to kill to heal while in combat.  With that being said, it’s not just any kill that will heal you.  You have to kill in the way that your class was made to kill, Technomancer won’t heal with close range kills and Trickster won’t heal with cross-map headshots, no matter how spectacular it was. Secondly – you need to move!  Early in the game, you will find yourself feeling like you are playing Gears of War with the moving from the cover-to-cover type of combat.  But getting stuck behind cover can cost you dearly.  Enemies are constantly on the move and if you don’t do the same, you will very quickly find yourself surrounded or stuck in a corner and unable to roll or dodge your way out of it (these are the ultimate spray and pray moments).    

My Experience

I was a little slow to get into Outriders as my internet really seems to struggle with the over 70GB game size.  Once it was downloaded though – I dove headfirst into the game, only to be stopped a couple of times for some early post-release patches and updates.  While these are good as they iron out the bugs – they are highly frustrating when you have just sat down and had your mindset on playing your shiny new game. All updates aside – I did struggle to get into the game early on as I found the fighting tedious and repetitive (as mentioned before) but this was mostly during the prologue as I was figuring out the game.  Once out of the prologue, I found the main story of Outriders pulling me in as its mission became my mission – GET THE PEOPLE OUT OF THE VALLEY AND SAFE FROM THE ANOMALY! The interesting side of the game also comes in in its seemingly endless customization options – apart from the skill tree system for each class, everything in-game (guns to armour) is movable (is that even a word?) and allows you to tweak and tune until you find that perfect build for what you want to play, or completely mess up a build that was serving its purpose just fine.   The class I chose was Trickster and quickly abandoned my usual assault and sniper loadout for one better suited to a close-range kill healing class – high fire rate rifles and shotguns.  My build also focuses on speed, weapons damage and support abilities, rather than HP, armour and damage abilities. After soloing the game for a while, I joined up with some friends who also had the game and co-op definitely increased the fun factor of the game exponentially (because we all know what it’s like when the squad is online) and the game automatically adjusts to allow for each player. In the co-oping, we did run into some issues where we tried adding someone new to the game but they weren’t able to join us as they were still busy with the prologue according to the game, when in fact they were quite far past it.  This was fixed by quitting to lobby and adding him through there.  While easily fixed – we did waste a lot of time trying to figure out how long the prologue actually was and why he wasn’t able to join us.    

Final Thoughts

Other than the pros and cons mentioned above, Outriders does have a few other things working in its favour and against.  Working in its favour in a big way is that the game is already available on Ultimate Pass – so if you have that, head on over and start trying to save humanity. The game also has crossplay – which is good, but it's currently not working and has been turned off – which is bad.  This is only temporary though and will be fixed. The game also has incredibly long loading times, made longer with more people in the squad, and I found myself semi nodding off on a couple of late-night gaming sessions. The game (at the moment) hasn’t got thousands of daily events and tasks for you to do like other online RPGs so it’s not stealing all of your time and leaving you with anxiety while you’re getting on with real-life because you feel like you’re losing out on something.  For now, it’s a nice chill and jam with mates kind of game.    

Overall – I give Outriders a 7 out of 10 stars but I think with a few more tweaks from the developers, this game could definitely move up in the ratings.

Thank you once again to Prima Interactive for giving us the game to play and review.

 

Read more

Cyberpunk 2077 – Review

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1kYOo9UxBw Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you all should have by now at least heard, if not seen, what Cyberpunk 2077 is, and how it’s fared since launch. So, this review is a little different since the game has been out since the 10th of December 2020, after MANY delays and reschedules. This game, which was probably one of the most anticipated games of this decade, was met with much disappointment at release.  Especially on “current-gen” consoles (being Xbox One and PS4 for those who, like me, get confused with all the next and current stuff) where the developers themselves admitted to only half committing to that and, instead, spent all their resources and time on the PC and “next-gen” (Xbox Series and PS5) development.  The developers, being CD Projekt Red, apologized profusely for this and promised to do all they could to get the “current-gen” of console up to scratch with a big patch planned to drop in January and another in February. Over at the Early Axes headquarters (which exists only in WhatsApp messages – we are working on it), we decided to give the game a fair fighting chance – naturally.  We may be rather large fans of CD Projekt Red’s other well know game, the studio in general and we were in the VIP section of the Cyberpunk hype train.  So, since we got the game for Xbox One, we wanted to make sure we gave it a chance before jumping to any decisions on it. With all this being said, the planned January drop happened about a week ago and we’ve been throwing some serious time at the game since, and before, then.

The Nitty Gritty

As mentioned earlier, we got the game on Xbox One and it weighs in at just under 60GB.  The game only has one version, but a Collector’s Edition was available in the pre-order phase which came with some really cool goodies and collectibles, but still the same version of the game that everyone else got.  This in itself is quite nice as you don’t feel like you’re missing out if you only have the standard issue of the game or are then enticed to spend more than you had originally bargained for on a higher version just to get a few cool in-game cosmetics items, or fear that you might miss out on future content. Since the launch of the game, there have been a few chunky updates as CD Projekt Red kept its end of the deal to work on the game and make it shiny for us.  Now – usually this would be an annoyance, but we were warned and they are doing it for us (yes – I know all updates and patches are for our enjoyment) but just a little warning for those of you who don’t have uncapped, or unthrottled, internet lines. The price at the time of this review is roughly between R800 and R1000 for digital versions and has already been on sale.

The Story

You pick up the story of an ambitious young person (you can choose what you want them to be) who comes from one of three different backgrounds – Nomad, Streetkid, or Corpo.  Your background choice determines how your story starts and how your player thinks and makes associations during the game.  All have their own uniqueness about them so this game is definitely one to be played at least three times.   I chose Nomad and started on the outer limits of Night City where I was to meet a contact to help him smuggle something through the checkpoint and into the city. Enter Jackie.   Jackie is the guy who becomes your friend no matter which game line you chose, but your meeting with him will vary.  He becomes your hombre and partner in crime as you both set your eyes on the “major leagues” and becoming one of Night City’s most renowned. Soon after you meet Jackie is where the pawpaw hits the fan, and you are thrown into the thick of it as you fight your way into the city (Nomad background) and find a place to lie low to lose the heat. The game then cuts through a few scenes as you see yourself, V, and Jackie doing jobs and earning street cred for yourselves as you get higher and higher profile jobs.  It is because of this success that one fixer, by the name of Dex, phones you up and offers you a spot on the heist of a lifetime.  The one that will set you up in the "major leagues" and send you straight into legend. This first heist acts as the intro to Cyberpunk 2077 as you learn all the bits you need to learn and get introduced to a whole bunch of lore that will come in handy for later on in the game. Without giving away too much of the storyline for those of you who have not yet had the privilege of playing this game, the heist goes balls up in a big way and ends with a bang. Welcome to Cyberpunk 2077... It is here that your story truly starts, and you are introduced to Johnny Silverhand (Keanu – you’re breathtaking). Your and his story are intertwined in a glorious way and, of course, you have vendettas to settle – as any good story should.  

Performance

At launch, the game did have its fair share of bugs and annoying glitches, but even so – nothing I came across was “game-breaking” in my opinion.  Sometimes faces didn’t load in and details were obscured, some items would randomly fly around apparently on their own (Harry Potter – that you?) and the controls and combat did feel a little clunky.  Beyond that though, all missions started without a hitch and the storyline pulled me in before I even knew what was happening.  And besides, I’ve played with worse bugs and still loved the game. At first, I just put this down to my Xbox being the original Xbox One and being a little old – as I know that newer games don’t run as smoothly as they would on the One S or X, but then came the articles and CD Projekt Red swallowing their pride, owning up and then working to fix it.  So, I gave the game a chance. With each update, the game seemed smoother and the controls less clunky, still a far cry from what I am sure people were experiencing on the X or the next-gen consoles, and of course - in RTX glory.  But this game was still fun, and I kept coming back for that reason – which in my books, is more than enough.  With the latest update, my game has been running smoother than ever with almost no hiccups.  My game does still struggle a little in high render areas where there are lots of lights and people and then things will take a second or three longer to load than they should, but I am positive that this is due to my device and am hopeful that this too will be addressed in the next big patch. All in all, I do believe that I am not experiencing the full glory of Night City-based mainly on my older Xbox but even with that, the game still runs very well and is a heck of a lot of fun to play.  

Final Thoughts

With all things considered – Cyberpunk may not have been the game that we were hyped for since that sneaky reveal at E3 2018, but it is still definitely a game that will be the main competitor for the upper echelons of my gaming list. The story is incredibly well made and with in-game choices and side missions being aplenty, there is so much to do to keep you exploring the richness that is Night City for hours! And with the recent announcement of a FREE DLC for Cyberpunk dropping in the next few months, there are even more hours of game time to convince you to spend the money and hit the streets. I definitely give Cyberpunk 2077 a solid 8 out of 10 stars as it’s one of the most captivating and fun games I’ve played in a long time.    

So - wake up samurai, we have a city to burn.

A big thank you again to our friends over at Prima Interactive for giving us a chance to review this game.

 
Read more

Edifier G2 II Gaming Headset – Review

The G2 II is the second-in-charge of the gaming headsets over at Edifier but that does not mean that it backs down against its siblings.  

Specs

  • Driver: 50mm
  • Frequency response: 20Hz-20KHz
  • Impedance: 32Ohm
  • Sensitivity: 98dB
  • Cable length: 2.5m
  • Input Plug: USB
 

Design and Features

The G2 II takes inspiration in design from the more classic, robust gaming headsets with its sturdier-looking build. Edifier chose to go more incognito with the G2 II coming in all black or all white (with black cuffs) design.  Staying true to the Edifier look and feel, however, the G2 II also has a steel mesh finish on the cuff with some nice subtle RGB lighting underneath the mesh just adding that little extra pizzaz that we’re all looking for, even if we don’t always admit to it.  The RGB lighting itself has an automatic breath transition effect as it changes colors, which adds nicely to the overall feel of the headset.     The mic on the G2 II is detachable, which I have my own personal reservations about (ie. misplace) with a small little windscreen over the mic sensor to help eliminate the noise from the heavier breathers out there.  The mic itself is easily moved around to get the best placement for comfort and clarity – both very important when barking out orders to teammates as you dominate the playing field. The G2 II boasts 7.1 Virtual Surround Sound which fully immerses and gives the player game critical sounds to boost skill that extra virtual skill tier.  This headset does not have vibration feedback but it really doesn’t like the bass and all other sounds come through crisp and clear. The headset volume and mute function is easily controlled on the on-cable controls with the cable stretching far enough for you to rage back from the keyboard with little risk of ripping something off your desk – but with this sound, rage should happen less. The 50mm drivers mean that the ear cuffs are large and comfortable with their soft leatherette padding which blocks out almost all the annoying background noise that can feed the wrong information to us.  

Personal Thoughts

The G2 II gaming headset from Edifier stands head and shoulders above its siblings for several reasons. From the get-go, the look of the headset seems sturdier and less likely to break or scuff easily.  Beyond that, the bigger ear cuff size means that for dumbo-eared me, I can game for longer periods of time without my ears getting sore from being squashed between pad and head. In fact, during extended periods of use, I barely felt the headset on my head like a headband and ear cuff sat comfortably, with enough padding, to not press and put pressure on any part that it comes in contact with. The quality of sound from the headset seems clearer and crisper than its brothers and the quality of the sound coming from the mic, according to my teammates, is the best of the lot – and no dreaded echo either.     The mute function is easy with just the click of a button with a small LED indicating muted or unmuted. One shortfall of the headset is once again the software.  Now being easier to find as it is not my first time with this rodeo.  I had hoped for the software for the G2 II with it being called “Edifier Gaming Center.”  These hopes were dashed as soon as I double-clicked though as the same outdated-looking control center opened up before me with very limited controls and things to do within the program.  Adding to my frustration was the fact that I need a whole new program installed on my PC, which is exactly the same, for the same brand of headset.  This is not a problem if you only own one – but when reviewing, you tend to have more than just one headset and so multiple programs with the same function is a little tiresome.  

Overall Thoughts

At R1 300, I think that the G2 II Gaming Headset from Edifier is the best and price per pound of the entire range.  In my opinion, both the sound and mic quality were higher than the other headsets and the comfort - due mostly to the bigger ear cuff, was much better. The sturdy look and changing RGB lights are also an added effect as we all know that RBG is +10 to all skills.  The detachable mic is one minor downer for me but nothing that would deter me from buying this headset.     The software again is a big let down as I was once again left with a bitter taste for not being able to do more and personalize my experience even more. So, all things considered, I give the G2 II 7.1 Virtual Surround Sound Gaming Headset from Edifier a solid 8 out of 10 stars.

A big thanks to the guys over at Edifier South Africa for swinging a pair our way to test out.

Read more

Edifier G4 Gaming Headset – Review

When it comes to gaming, one necessary piece of tech that will take you from floundering beginner to stable and steady is a decent headset. With that though, comes its own problems.  What to choose and how much to spend. Some people may say that spending more means a better headset, but this is not always the case. The range of gaming headset from Edifier shows just that.  With their latest headsets, anybody can get their hands on a decent headset to up the ante on their gaming without crippling their back accounts. We start off by looking at the flagship headset of the Edifier gaming range, the G4.  

Specs

  • Driver: 40mm
  • Frequency response: 20Hz-20KHz
  • Impedance: 24Ohm
  • Sensitivity: 103dB
  • Cable length: 2.5m
  • Input Plug: USB
 

Design and Features

The design of the G4 is both sleek and stylish with just enough RGB to catch any PC Master Race member’s eye. Comfort was a main design focus with the G4 with leatherette padding on the ear pads and on the head support, allowing for maximum comfort over long periods of gaming. We were fortunate enough to be sent the black and red G4.  The overall color of the headset is glossy black with the padding, cables, and other trims of the headset being red.  The G4 is also available in Black and Green and White with blue RGB.  It does seem that only the black and the red variety is available for purchase here in South Africa though. The ear cups have a metal mesh finish with an RGB ring on the inside of each cup.  The RGB is simplistic enough to keep the G4 looking classy but also - it is RGB.  So, it’d fit in with most RGB crazy PC builds. Edifier has opted for the retractable mic for the G4, which slides neatly up into the left ear cup when not in use.  They have also included an RGB strip on the mic which is an easy way to see if your mic is muted or not. The controls are easily found on the cable, with the cable itself being long enough to plug into any hard-to-reach USB port without feeling like you are hamstringing yourself. The G4 also includes vibration feedback in the headset which, at first sounded and felt weird, but after playing with it for a bit, the responsiveness of the vibrations is not just hearing, but giving a feel to that 7.1 virtual surround sound, added to the responsiveness of my in-game reactions.  

Personal Thoughts

I put the G4 through extended periods of “on-head” sessions, either while listening to music or while gaming, to really test the comfort aspect of the headset.  I can safely say that the G4 is surprisingly light and easy on the head.  One minor detail for me would be the smaller ear cuff size on this headset did hurt my nearly dumbo sized ears, but this is not unusual for me with headsets that opt for the 40mm driver size. With me being a bit of an entry-level audiophile, I was skeptical of the choice of 40mm drivers over the 50mm drivers that I have become used to in other headsets.  But the G4 has shown that sometimes dynamite really does come in small packages, with their drivers putting out some decent, good quality sound in music and gaming alike.  The bass does feel a bit lacking in the headset and I did sometimes struggle to hear it in important game-clutch situations and in more subtle-bass music. The first time I used the G4, I immediately put it through the bass test of Skrillex and it seemed to blow my mind away – but then, the next time I used it, it suddenly didn’t anymore.  After some fiddling, I realized that the vibrations were turned on in that first, out-of-the-box experience and I had since turned them off (the thought of my ears vibrating was a bit much for me).  So - flicking the vibrations back on, I got that same deep bass feeling again.  The G4 really does bring new meaning to “Good Vibrations.”  Again – I am fully aware that vibrations in headsets is not for everyone, in fact, I am still not entirely convinced of it myself, but do not write the G4 off just for having it. The mic quality was good with people I spoke to not complaining once that they could not hear me, or of the dreaded in-game echo.  I am also a fan of the retractable mic, as removable mics come with their own issues (losing it or temporarily misplacing it being a big one) and the traditional mics that flick up and out of the way can catch and break as well.  With the G4 having a retractable mic, it also means that you really can position the mic well to maximize both comfort for yourself, as well as clarity for your teammates. One big downer for me with the G4 was its software. I felt that the software was not easy to find as it did not initiate with the plugging in of the device and had to be sourced from the Edifier website.  Once you know where it is, it is easy enough but living in the world we do with plug and play, this did add to set up time a bit.  The software itself also left much to be desired in my opinion.  It felt a little more like something you would find on Windows Vista rather than a modern gaming headphone driver software.  The software is very limited in use and the only thing you can do with it is a basic EQ.  

Overall Thoughts

Coming in at R1 800 at the time of writing, there is definitely a cheaper headset than the G4 on the market but there are plenty sitting at a much higher price tag too.  The G4’s price does put it on the top end of the cheaper price range spectrum but doesn’t let that fool you – the G4 is a good bang for your buck. Besides the software that could use an overhaul, the G4 headset really is good value for money.  It is comfortable, sturdy, stylish, and gives good quality sound.  The G4 is a decent step up to any entry-level headset on the market and you won’t be disappointed with what you get. Taking price, features, quality, and feel into account - I give the Edifier G4 Gaming Headset a solid 7/10 stars.
A big thanks to the guys at Edifier South Africa for sending us a pair to play with.
Read more

Just Dance 2021 – Review

Just Dance 2021 is the latest game in a series that spans an impressive 11 year run in the gaming community worldwide.  The dancing started in 2009 and Just Dance 2021 is the 23rd game, including all the console exclusive and special releases, in the dance phenomenon.  The latest release of the game, or should we say institution, has a lot to offer the first time player as well as the dance floor boogie master. So why don’t we put on our dancing shoes and slide right in… (see what I did there?)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5G-DFYNOTec

The Dance Floor

Now, as the name suggests, this game is all about flashy dance moves - just like the previous versions of the game have done before (but this is what we love about it now… don’t we?). It’s not an FPS, adventure, or rage-inducing game - we hope… It’s an invite the crew over and have a party game, which will test your skills, timing, and rhythm, and can be made competitive as you earn a score rating according to how well you “brought the heat”.

As always - you go through the menu and find a song that you feel you’re going to own (to impress that special someone in the room) and hit play.  Depending on the skill level you choose - either you end up with an awesome score, or the crew has something to laugh about for the foreseeable future.  Either way, you are sure to have a lot of fun.

Graphics, Controls, and Gameplay

Let’s get to the “nitty-gritty” of the game. Personally, I feel that the graphics are amazing considering what the game does. With the bright colors, flashing visuals, and awesome music, it seems to check all the boxes for a game that is as fun for one person, as it is for a whole group or family. My Xbox One S ran this game smooth as butter, and I can only imagine how much more visually appealing it would be on a stronger, or next-gen, console.

There are a few extras as well as new features in Just Dance 2021 that I think make this version one of the best Ubisoft has ever made. Once you purchase Just Dance 2021 you get;

With Just Dance Unlimited, dance to over +600 songs!  A free 1-month trial of Just Dance Unlimited is included with every copy of Just Dance 2021 on Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox Series, Xbox One, and Stadia. Play with friends and share the fun with co-op mode.  Work together to get the highest score! Dance the way you like by creating your own personalized custom playlists. Enjoy eight new kid-friendly songs and choreographies for a family-fun experience. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0g8_Jd49No4

Then there is the smartphone app for Just Dance.  This piece of techno brilliance tracks your moves with no additional accessories required.  This means that you don’t need any video hardware to play the game… and you can connect up to six players at a time!  ALL WITH YOU SMARTPHONE! Madness... With more than 10 million downloads across mobile OS's, people seem to love it.

It seems that as Just Dance grows and expands, their motion capture is getting better and better with every game they bring out.  I can definitely see this eventually expanding into the realm of VR (ahem - I expect compensation for my idea) with virtual parties and clubs that make Ready Player One seem not so science fiction as we originally believed.  But this is a long way off and for now, we can just expect the next-gen consoles to bring us amazing visuals that this game seems to have in spades.

My Experience

After downloading Just Dance 2021, the set up was as simple as learning line dancing - Uhm, not that I line dance. If you’re worried about not having the right equipment, don’t worry.  As I’ve mentioned before - the Just Dance App is the best thing since High School Musical… No? Just me? Ok, I digress.

Now the gameplay is basically the same whether you have a motion camera or a cell phone (minus the accidental phone drop or toss across the room). The music selection this time around is “simply the best” and with the added bonus of a Just Dance Unlimited subscription, your choices are shot to over 600 songs to keep you entertained and dancing all night long. Can you get through them all?

I have to admit that I did try out the kids' levels first (for the purpose of being thorough of course), and felt like an absolute dance master. So I attempted the easy, medium, and hard levels and well, let’s just say, I need more practice.  But whether I was amazing or just plain sucked, I had fun either way which, in my opinion, is the aim of the game.

Final Verdict

During my time playing this game, I found myself wanting to call my friends over for a dance party or wanting my own 8-year-old daughter to experience the fun of playing and going crazy.  So as the music fades on this review, let’s take a step back and look at what gaming is. Gaming is an activity that is meant to be fun and entertaining to help us forget the stresses of living in the real world and, in my opinion, this game does just that! It takes you back to a time when arcades were troves of joy and, for most of us, those memories are what we wish to experience again.  Today’s next-gen games are amazing - no doubt about it, but Just Dance 2021 allows you to be that kid again…waiting patiently in line for your turn to play.

And so, on that nostalgic note (I promise to stop the music and dance puns now), I give my dance moves 1 out of 10 but Just Dance 2021 comes in clutch on that with a staggering 9 out of 10 stars!

 

 

I dedicate this next dance to Prima Interactive for throwing the game our way. Thank you.

 

Read more