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Found 6 results

  1. GP Staff

    Game of the Year 2016: GP's Top 10

    We're nearly a month into the new year, but you didn't think we forgot to post GP's top 10 games of 2016, did you? Okay, so it's a little late, but better late than never, right? In any case, there were quite a few memorable and great games in 2016; our individual game of the year lists tended to reflect that a lot as each one had at least a few unique games that didn't pop up in others. Some games dominated the conversation for most of the year, some were quaint surprises, and yet others popped up at the last minute to steal the spotlight. And in a year where shooters had one of their biggest years in a while, perhaps the most surprising thing about our list is that only one made it on (which speaks to the quality of the games that released in 2016). But enough talk! Here are the ten games the GP staff and contributors voted on as our overall Top 10 games for 2016. Enjoy! 10. Kirby Planet Robobot "Kirby“s latest outing has me reflecting upon my childhood, and how these games make me feel, in a different way than I expected. I simply haven't felt this impressed, this unbelievably delighted from a Kirby game since my childhood. I've often said that Return to Dream Land marks the pinnacle of traditional Kirby gameplay. But Planet Robobot takes it -- and fans“ expectations -- and manages to make everything feel like a mechanized wonderland." - Jonathan Higgins 9. Severed The beauty and the pain portrayed in Severed is matched only by how simple and refined the combat is. It may not have the whimsy of their other games, but Severed is easily one of DrinkBox Studios“ best, and one of the best games overall on the Vita -- not just of this year, but of any year. - Chris "Wildcard Corsair" Garcia 8. Owlboy So much about what makes Owlboy worth experiencing isn“t in the mechanics, but in its cast and environments. You won“t feel triumphant in the end — it“ll be more like you just watched a really awesome Disney movie. The folks behind Owlboy put so much meticulous care into their work that it took nine years to make. The end result is absolutely worth your own time and attention. - Jonathan Higgins 7. Pokemon Sun and Moon Alola is an absolutely, positively phenomenal place. Its challenges were versatile; I“ve never had as much fun with a main story in a mainline Pokémon game. The soundtrack is absolutely phenomenal; “The Battle At the Summit!” is probably Masuda and his team at their absolute best. Narrative direction? Superior, bested only by Black & White. Music, sounds, and general ambiance? Also top-tier. All of this and more make Sun & Moon easy to recommend to first-timers, or lapsed fans. - Jonathan Higgins 6. The Witness It's hard to follow up a game like Braid, but developer Jonathan Blow did it. The Witness is truly unlike any other game I've ever played, thanks to its unique combination of exploration and puzzles. The game teaches you organically how to think about the solutions to each puzzle, and the way that each area is divided into different types of puzzles is extremely well done. It is, without a doubt, the smartest game of the year. - Jason Clement 5. Tokyo Mirage Sessions As a fan of both Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei, I can certainly understand the disappointment some felt when Tokyo Mirage Sessions turned out to be a game that in no way matched what they had envisioned Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem would be. But the heart of both franchises shines through in ways expected and not, with a top-notch presentation and a warm heart that in my mind turned out to be the Wii U“s last and greatest hurrah. - Justin Graham 4. Final Fantasy XV Though it“s rough around the edges, Noctis“s road trip tale of brotherhood and a desire to find his betrothed after his kingdom has fallen under imperial rule shines through where it counts, wearing its inspirations from past Final Fantasy games on its sleeve while standing well on its own. And the game“s ending is not only rewarding, but one of the very best that the series has delivered yet, nailing the game“s themes one after another. - Justin Graham 3. Dragon Quest Builders Building has never been quite as compelling in video games as it is in Dragon Quest Builders. While the simplistic combat is perhaps the game's weakest point, Dragon Quest Builders is by far one of the deepest experiences I've played this year thanks to its blend of exploration, construction, and traditional JRPG mechanics. Nearly everything about it from its addicting gameplay to its fantastic soundtrack make it an outstanding experience and one of this year's biggest surprises. - Jason Clement 2. Overwatch I won“t tell you my exact hour count, but I“ve put a disgusting amount of time into Overwatch. You know how I complained about not having enough time to play games in my backlog? Well, I'm pretty sure I could've finished a couple of RPGs with the amount of time I have thrown at Overwatch. But anyway, Overwatch is a total blast to play. Rich with personality/polish, an incredibly varied playable cast, rewarding team-based gameplay, and plenty of positive reinforcement built right within the game makes the consistent fun I've had with it far outweigh the criticisms I could level against it. And from someone who pretty much never plays first-person shooter multiplayer is incredibly high praise. - Barrel 1. The Last Guardian The Last Guardian is, by all accounts, a game that very possibly could have come out and completely underwhelmed; after all, it was in development for some eight years (and more often than not, those types of deals tend to be disasters in the end). But somehow, some way, Fumito Ueda and his team at GenDesign pulled it off. By no means is it perfect; playing the game can be challenging at times due to some awkward controls and stubborness on Trico's part to obey at times, but the journey is worth it at the end and incredibly compelling. The Last Guardian has some of the most stunning environments and architecture I've ever seen in a video game. The visuals are breathtaking, especially when you're in the outdoors areas and see Trico's feathers glistening in the light and ruffling in the wind. The Last Guardian is triumphant, its story possibly exceeding what Team Ico had accomplished in its two previous games thanks to a touching narrative that is built on the relationship between the boy and Trico throughout their journey. I can't imagine how Ueda plans to top this, but I can't wait to find out. - Jason Clement
  2. Jason Clement

    Game of the Year 2016: Jason's Picks

    I'll skip the real-world comparisons and say that for the most part, 2016 was a pretty good year for video games overall. Two of the most long-awaited games finally came out (and not a moment too soon), and they were both surprisingly excellent. Many more great indie games made their debut, and I'm looking forward to catching up with a lot of them over the next year. And the 3DS had one of its best years yet in terms of RPGs for the handheld. Heck, we even got cool surprises like the NES Classic Edition. As usual, I want to acknowledge some of this year's runner-ups, such as Firewatch and Stories: The Path of Destinies; both of which nearly made my list. Coatsink's Shu also deserves a lot of credit for being one of the most original games I played this year as well. And last but not least, Overwatch is a game I wish I had spent more time with, but ultimately there just wasn't enough time to play everything. In any event, here are my top 10 games of 2016. 10. Fire Emblem Fates Fire Emblem Fates was far and away one of my most anticipated titles coming into 2016. Awakening was my game of the year for 2013, and now the series was plunging headfirst into a story that would see new protagonist Corrin split between two warring sides: his adopted family and the family of his birth. It was an interesting twist and a great setup for a potentially epic story and character-rich plot, even if the story gets away from itself a bit at certain points. The strategic gameplay is still as good as ever and I enjoyed pairing up various units to see how their relationships would unfold. 9. Abzu Confession: I was already completely biased in favor of Abzu from the start, especially since two of the three major creative people behind Journey (aka my game of the year in 2012) worked on it. Also, in light of that latter fact, it's also not surprising that Abzu is essentially Journey except under the water, in a sense. However, it does not out-Journey Journey, and that's okay. Abzu is a short but breathtaking experience, and Austin Wintory's woodwind-filled orchestrated soundtrack adds to the epic feel of swimming alongside majestic sea creatures and currents in exotic underwater locales. There's virtually no challenge to it, but I almost can't wait to dive back in and experience it all again. 8. Batman: The Telltale Series The last Telltale game I had played before this was The Wolf Among Us, which I really enjoyed, but for some reason I hadn't had the desire to play any more after that -- until Batman, that is. Unbeknownst to players at the outset, Batman: The Telltale Series exists in its own universe, meaning Telltale gets to tell Batman as they want to tell him. Everything you knew about Batman potentially gets thrown out the window, which is refreshing and exciting to me, and Telltale used this to their advantage to tell one of the best Batman stories of recent years. Also, it probably has the most exciting quick-time-event sections I've ever experienced. Season 2 can't come soon enough. 7. Star Fox Zero If you haven't played Star Fox Zero yet, you might be surprised to see it on this list. Aren't the controls terrible? Isn't it a bad game? And to that I say no, it's not a bad game. At all. The controls aren't 100% ideal, but they're fine once you get used to them for 30 minutes or so (with occasional spottiness). But underneath the stigma of its motion controls, Star Fox Zero contains one of the best Star Fox games, bar none. Platinum's signature is definitely felt in this game especially with certain levels that feature over-the-top action (especially some of the latter ones), and it was a joy to hear the new songs as well as new renditions of old classics. It may not be exactly what everyone wanted, but as a reimagining of Star Fox 64, it definitely achieves what it sets out to do (with a few twists) and be incredibly entertaining at the same time. 6. Paper Mario: Color Splash Paper Mario: Color Splash may continue the same direction that the much criticized Paper Mario: Sticker Star started, but I'll defend it to the death as one of this year's great titles. While the plot is still rather thin (pun not intended, I swear) compared to the first three Paper Mario games, Intelligent Systems gives Mario and friends more to work with in this game as he investigates why the color is seemingly disappearing from Prism Island. The new color system doesn't add a ton of depth to the card-based battle system, but it's used surprisingly well in various puzzles throughout the game. Also, Color Splash has a fantastic soundtrack and arguably the best/funniest writing in the entire series (The Thousand Year Door included), where each level is essentially a brand new scenario to work through (mini story arcs and all). What it lacks in the main plot, it more than makes up for in its witty writing and zany characters, making for a memorable Paper Mario experience. 5. Song of the Deep In many ways, Song of the Deep is this year's Child of Light. It's a fairytale/storybook plot featuring a little girl who goes on a journey, except this time it's under the sea. It's a shame that this game never got much more recognition than it did because it features some outstanding atmosphere and environments throughout. Insomniac Games managed to tell a touching story about Merryn's journey through the sea but also make a compelling, underwater Metroidvania world to explore at the same time. 4. The Witness As someone who enjoyed Braid (and especially its big twist at the end) years back, I knew I had to experience The Witness when it finally released (being from the same creator and all). While the decision to have no music is definitely strange at first, there is something really interesting about just having ambient rustling of leaves, the wind, and your footsteps as all you hear. The island you explore is incredibly beautiful thanks to the unique low-polygon style used but also hauntingly lonely. More than anything else, the combination of exploration and puzzles is what truly makes this a unique experience. The game teaches you organically how to think about the solutions to each puzzle, and the way that each area is divided into different types of puzzles is extremely well done. It is, without a doubt, the smartest game of the year. 3. Final Fantasy XV What a long, strange journey it's been for Final Fantasy XV. While it's definitely not the game that was originally presented to us at Final Fantasy Versus XIII, I'm thrilled to say that it turned out to be a good game in the end anyhow. It's not perfect by any means, with much of its world suffering from an identity crisis (is this a Final Fantasy world or is this Middle America with some fantasy elements?) and its main plot being a jumbled mess at points. Yet, Noctis and the bond between his three friends form the core of what makes Final Fantasy XV one of the best games this year. They go through quite a bit throughout the game, but none of their interactions ever feel forced, instead feeling like four good friends going a bachelor road trip before one of them (Noctis) gets married. Even though the broader spectrum of the plot (such as the invasion behind Insomnia) is somewhat lost in translation over the course of the game, Hajime Tabata and his team got the most important aspects right by honing on the relationship between Noctis and his friends, making the open world feel alive and worth exploring, and creating a fairly memorable villain that keeps you guessing as to what his motivations are. Also, the ending is definitely one of the more interesting finales in the series and will have fans talking about it for a while. 2. Dragon Quest Builders Minecraft is a game that has only ever vaguely intrigued me, but I still haven't had the urge to play it even in the midst of its insane popularity today. Dragon Quest Builders made me a believer in the concept by taking Minecraft's building and crafting elements and pairing it with objectives and an RPG plot that's surprisingly more compelling than it should be. Exploring each area of its rich world and gathering materials is just as much fun as building towns from the ground up, block by block. It could easily be a dull, grating experience but DQB makes the experience fun by giving you a wide array of building materials as well as objects and rooms to build. While the simplistic combat is perhaps the game's weakest point, Dragon Quest Builders is by far one of the deepest experiences I've played this year, and nearly everything about it from its addicting gameplay to its fantastic soundtrack make it an outstanding experience and one of this year's biggest surprises. 1. The Last Guardian Hoo boy -- where do I even start. The Last Guardian is, by all accounts, a game that very possibly could have come out and completely underwhelmed; after all, it was in development for some eight years (and more often than not, those types of deals tend to be disasters in the end). But somehow, some way, Fumito Ueda and his team at GenDesign pulled it off. By no means is it perfect; playing the game can be challenging at times due to some awkward controls and stubborness on Trico's part to obey at times, but the journey is worth it at the end and incredibly compelling. The Last Guardian has some of the most stunning environments and architecture I've ever seen in a video game. The visuals are breathtaking, especially when you're in the outdoors areas and see Trico's feathers glistening in the light and ruffling in the wind. The Last Guardian is triumphant, its story possibly exceeding what Team Ico had accomplished in its two previous games thanks to a touching narrative that is built on the relationship between the boy and Trico throughout their journey. I can't imagine how Ueda plans to top this, but I can't wait to find out.
  3. HAIL 9000

    Game of the Year 2016: Hailee's Picks

    2016 was a busy year for me, what with moving to a new country and all. Unfortunately that meant that I didn“t get to play everything I wanted to this year, but despite that I still had quite a tough time narrowing this list down to only ten games. There are definitely a few games that I really enjoyed that didn“t make the cut. I won“t give shoutouts to all of them, but at the very least I have to mention Kentucky Route Zero Act IV, which after much deliberation I decided not to put on the list because it“s only a part of a game and can“t stand alone without the other acts. But all and all this was a pretty good year in video games, at least for me, so let“s dive in! 10. Hyper Light Drifter Hyper Light Drifter is a game I“ve been looking forward to since I first ran into it at PAX last year. The game“s art direction is what drew me in immediately, but after playing the demo I was even more excited to see the finished product. When the game finally came out earlier this year, I was excited to find that it had been worth the wait. While I definitely found it to be pretty darn challenging and sometimes frustrating, I overall had a great time with Hyper Light Drifter. The gameplay, although often difficult and tense, was a lot of fun and felt rewarding, featuring some very satisfying and fluid combat which was nicely complimented by great puzzles. That said, the game was certainly an exercise is resilience, and did sometimes feel quite punishing, but never so much that it pushed me away completely. But where Hyper Light Drifter really shines is in its worldbuilding. With the aid of its stellar visual design and soundtrack, the game manages to create a consistent mood that“s mysterious and often sad. It masterfully crafts a world world that succeeds in being beautiful as well as interesting, which drove me to play and explore as much as I could. All these elements helped make Hyper Light Drifter a memorable experience. 9. Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse As someone who first came to the Shin Megami Tensei series through Persona, I often find myself wishing that some other games in the series were a bit more accessible with stronger and more prominent plot and characters. While obviously not a Persona game, Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse was kind of a happy medium, at least for me personally. Apocalypse brings back the world, locations, and gameplay of Shin Megami Tensei IV with a new, stronger, and more consistent plot that intersects in interesting ways with that of the original. Additionally, various gameplay and UI improvements address a lot of my frustrations with Shin Megami Tensei IV. The most welcome addition for me, however, was a cast of much more compelling and engaging characters, all of whom are unique and full of personality. All and all, it really felt like it managed to be a new experience that took advantage of its foundations while improving and building on them. It succeeded in not feeling like a rehash, despite revisiting many of the same locations as Shin Megami Tensei IV. And it does all of it with an awesome post-apocalyptic cyberpunk aesthetic and the Shin Megami Tensei art direction that I“ve come to know and love. 8. Dragon Quest Builders This is one game I never would have expected to end up on my list but holy heck did I have a lot of fun with it. I was barely even paying attention to this game until I happened to play the demo at PAX to kill some time. Dragon Quest Builders is kind of a perfect storm of several gameplay elements that I tend to have a lot of fun with. I dabbled with Minecraft a few times back in the day before it became an overwhelming cultural phenomenon, but I was never able to stick with it for more than a few days. Although I very much enjoyed the gathering and building, I struggled to give myself something to do. Ultimately, I just found the sandbox to be too big and directionless for me to really enjoy. Dragon Quest Builders does an excellent job of solving this problem by giving the game a plot (I use this term very loosely here) with quests and objectives. When I wasn“t feeling particularly creative or inspired, I had a stream of guests to give me direction. And when the mood struck, I had the opportunity to set aside the quests for a while and create a new building or improve my town here and there. Additionally, the separate chapters provide enough variety to keep things interesting. And the game has that cute whimsical Dragon Quest feeling which just makes it feel that much more fun and inviting. It ended up being my favorite game this year for all the times I just needed to wind down and relax. 7. Owlboy My list this year seems full of games with notably long development cycles, and Owlboy is no exception. It may be kind of unfairly baised, but Owlboy“s origins definitely color my feelings toward the game. It just warms my heart when developers get to see a personal project that they“re passionate about realized, even if it takes years. Owlboy is first and foremost a really fun platform-adventure game. The mechanics are solid, the levels are well designed, and the fights feel rewarding. Owlboy also builds on its well established genre template by adding fun mechanics of its own, like flight and the ability to carry Otus“ companions to utilize their various skills. It also definitely succeeds in invoking that nostalgia for some of my favorite Nintendo titles of the past. While my taste in videogames has certainly broadened over the years, I got my start with The Legend of Zelda series, and it still feels great to master the mechanics of a well-crafted boss fight and finally get it right after several tries. While great gameplay is at the core of what makes Owlboy great, it“s certainly not the only place that it shines. The art direction and character design are both lovely. The characters are endearing in appearance and personality, and to top it all off the game has a big heart. 6. Overwatch It almost feels silly to write about Overwatch or put it on a GOTY list considering the game“s hilarious popularity, but it definitely deserves a spot on mine. Overwatch is just so darn good and so much fun, and I“m not usually one for competitive multiplayer, especially in first person shooters. As I“ve come to expect from Blizzard, the game takes many of the best aspects of the genre and perfects and builds on them. It“s a class-based shooter with so much variety that it“s easy to find something that works for you. And although I had my favorites, I happily switched between a broad list of characters between matches, unlike other class based games where I tend to perfect my role as only one or two characters and avoid deviation. Overwatch also takes some deliberate steps to take the pressure off by focusing on player accomplishments at the end of matches rather than offering a ranked KDR. It makes the game accessible not just by offering lots of ways to play, but also by giving players lots of avenues to get the hang of things in a low stress way where they could focus on improvement rather than performing well enough to avoid being singled out. It was exciting to see a lot of my friends who don“t usually go for this genre try out and get into Overwatch. On top of all of that, the amazing and diverse cast of well designed characters, the colorful aesthetic, and (notably minimal) interesting lore and character relationships just makes the game a lot of fun. Although we don“t know a ton specifically about the heroes, the shorts, comics, and quips passed between characters gives us a window into who they are. And all in all the game is just a lot of fun. 5. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Spirit of Justice The Ace Attorney games are some of of my all time favorites and their characters have a special place in my heart, so I“m always excited about a new entry in the series. While I enjoyed some of the spinoffs like Apollo Justice and Ace Attorney Investigations, I was so pleased with Dual Destinies because it felt kind of like a return to the first three games, which are far and away my favorites. It was nice to see Spirit of Justice continue in this vein while bringing some fresh ideas to the series with the cases in Khura“in and the new Divination Seances. While these cases still stick to the same structure we“ve come to expect, they change up the formula in a way that I thought was interesting and fun and require you to think about things a little differently than previous games. The game of course features the usual series staple of likable characters with horribly punny names and great character designs. Additionally, moving some of the cases to Khura“in also lets the game tackle some new and interesting issues. This leads to some excellent writing which even manages to push the boundaries of the series in a few ways, with one chapter in particular completely overturning my expectations of what was possible in an Ace Attorney case. All and all, Spirit of Justice brought something new while still maintaining the staples of the series that I love so much, making it a welcome entry. 4. Stardew Valley I have a lot of love for the Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons series (shoutout to Natsume for making this extremely confusing), so I was pretty darn excited about Stardew Valley. And for me, Stardew Valley is the perfect realization of everything good about Harvest Moon. Pretty much all aspects of the gameplay feel very well done, and make my day to day life as a farmer/adventurer/best friend to everyone in the town so satisfying. It“s addicting to the point of being dangerous, because you can lose hours to the game by falling into the “I“ll just play one more day†mentality. On top of that, it definitely adds a nice level of complexity to the writing and character development that I“ve never really felt was there in Harvest Moon games. The heart events feel more meaningful, and the characters have distinct personalities and backgrounds. It means that choosing a spouse goes beyond “do I want to marry the mermaid or the archeologist†(FYI I wanted to marry both in Harvest Moon DS). And on top of that, the game receives regular content updates based on player feedback, so it just keeps getting better. The other thing that really endears me to Stardew Valley is that it came about as the creator“s passion project which (as far as my understanding goes) he tackled almost completely on his own by learning to create his own art and music. The game is so lovingly crafted, and it“s clear that it could only be born out of a deep love and understanding of the Harvest Moon series. 3. The Last Guardian As an obnoxious Team Ico fan who“s always trying to force Shadow of the Colossus on everyone I meet, I was really looking forward to The Last Guardian. I definitely had tempered my expectations considering how long the game spent bouncing around in development hell, but in the end I really was not disappointed. The game is certainly not perfect, and as many have pointed out, it has its frustrating moments. I am absolutely guilty of having to turn it off and step away from it because Trico was just not cooperating. But I also find Trico to be one of the game“s greatest triumphs. He really does feel like a separate entity with his own personality and agenda, even when his agenda is doing everything but carrying me up to some dang ledge. The game excels at creating a bond between the player and Trico through shared experiences and hardships, and their symbiotic cooperative relationship feels like something unique I haven“t experienced before. I definitely applaud the developers who perfected Trico“s behavior. The game is also reminiscent of Team Ico“s previous games, Shadow of the Colossus and Ico, in more ways that one. It“s definitely a contemplative game, with the moments of calm far outweighing the moments of tension. The level design is both well executed and interesting, and the art direction is beautiful. The game excels at teaching you about its world and characters through small thoughtful details in things like the way characters move and interact with the environment. And as we“ve come to expect, the game has a strong emotional core and a story that many players will find quite moving. Of course, it also has some of the studio“s less stellar staples like awkward movement and controls, but the positives far outweigh the negatives. 2. Final Fantasy XV If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I was kind of taken by surprise by how endearing I found Final Fantasy XV. As a fairly invested fan of the series, I never would have requested an entry centered around trendy rich boys taking a roadtrip across a fantasy version of middle America, but here we are. Something that“s always endeared me to the Final Fantasy series is its willingness to try things out and do whatever the heck it wants, and Final Fantasy XV is certainly no exception. To start out with the bad, the main plot of the game definitely leaves something to be desired. It“s not incredibly interesting, it doesn“t flow very well, and I often found myself confused and wondering if I had missed some bit of context that would help me understand what was going on. I think some of this can be attributed to trying to fit it into the game“s open world structure, but the plot and its delivery feel like a bit of a mess even after taking that into account. My other complaint is that while the combat is definitely fun and satisfying on top of looking real cool, it“s lacking in strategic depth. However, this doesn“t stop the game from having some really awesome fun boss fights. The thing that really endears me to Final Fantasy XV is its characters and their journey together. Even though the main plot didn“t really do it for me, all the little character moments and interactions really did. I loved the little incidental conversations between the characters, camping at night and picking out meals for Ignis to cook, and going through all of Prompto“s pictures at the end of the day. Driving or walking around the beautiful world feels peaceful and reflective, and I think going through the day to day of this journey with the four characters let me get to know them in a different way than I“m used to. You get the sense that you“re really on a journey with four friends who care a lot about each other, and in that way the game shines. Plus the game has a heavy dose of the kind of dorky weirdness I“ve come to love in Final Fantasy games. So ultimately while imperfect and rough around the edges, Final Fantasy XV was just a lovely experience and certainly a lot of fun. 1. Firewatch Every year or so there“s a game which I am gifting to my friends out of the kindness of my heart so that they feel obligated to play it and talk to me about it. This year, that game was Firewatch. There were a lot of things that made Firewatch for me. First of all, it“s gorgeous. The art direction is incredible, and I appreciated all the time the game gave me just to wander through its beautiful recreation of the Shoshone national forest. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest I spent a lot of time outdoors, and, even though it“s set in Wyoming, the “hiking†in this game felt so nostalgic to me. The writing is where Firewatch really excels though. It deals with the pretty unglamorous lives of real people, focusing mostly on Henry, a middle aged man who“s reached a difficult crossroads in his life. It touches on a lot of subjects I find are rarely visited in games, which I thought was refreshing. Henry is definitely not your average protagonist, and his efforts to escape his life by taking a job as a park ranger out in the wilderness isn“t your average premise. In addition to Henry“s story, you get to piece together the stories of previous fire lookouts as you find traces of their lives left in the park. Every single story told in the game has a strong emotional core which makes them all feel very worthwhile. The way the story is told through walkie-talkie conversations between Henry and Delilah is kind of delightful, and the writing feels both genuine and natural. I got so wrapped up in Henry“s relationship with her and with the game“s central mystery that I beat it in just two sittings, which is quite unusual for me. I also appreciate that between important conversations, you usually spend some time hiking in silence to let you process what just happened. If you“re thinking of playing Firewatch, I“d recommend not reading this last paragraph since I“d hate to color your expectations. This is where I expect my opinion diverges from many others, but the ending was what really cemented Firewatch as one of my favorite games, because I felt incredibly let down. I found myself so invested in the mysteries and in my relationship with Delilah that when things didn“t play out as anticipated I was disappointed. But I thought about it a lot (I mean really a lot) and realized that the game had intentionally manipulated me into thinking the story was something that it wasn“t, and in doing so, had really succeeded in making my experience as the player mirror the experience of the protagonist. That helped make the game“s conclusion much more meaningful and poignant.
  4. Jonathan Higgins

    E3 2016 Hands-on: Dragon Quest Builders

    My love for Dragon Quest is infamous in certain circles. I bounced around the room like a game of racquetball when Nintendo announced that Dragon Quest VII and VIII on 3DS were finally coming West. As much as I pined for those games to leave Japan for years, I didn“t really feel the same way about Dragon Quest Builders. I approached the demo at E3 2016 willing to give it a chance because it“s Dragon Quest, and plenty of their spinoffs have had enough charm to win me over. But see, Minecraft and I have never really gotten along. I found its beginnings largely intimidating, since it didn“t really tell me what to do or where to go. And, from what I gather, Minecraft is a game where you kind of imagine your own story, versus see one unfold before you. If you feel the same way I do about Minecraft, I am happy to report that putting a Dragon Quest spin on that game“s conventions gives players a sense of direction, as well as an underlying story that gives the world you create meaning beyond what you make of it. If you don“t, and you love the kind of creativity that Minecraft yields, there“s absolutely plenty of that, too. Still, I“m going to spend most of this reflection offering up how Dragon Quest does Minecraft a fair bit differently. For those who don“t know, the original Dragon Quest was one of the first NES games to give you the ability to choose whether you want to “join forces with the last boss” or not. The Dragonlord offers the hero from that game the option to rule half a world with him. If you hit “Yes” at the time, it“s a trap and you get a Game Over. But see: Dragon Quest Builders takes place after that Game Over, in a ruined world (Alefgard) where the hero failed. Bad stuff happened, but now a new hero, the player, has been graced with the ability to build. Folks have apparently forgotten what the word “build” even means, so it“s up to you to -- quite literally -- rebuild and restore the civilization that the Dragonlord destroyed. The hero has a direct line of communication to the spirit that watches over the world, and said spirit guides you with a loose sense of what to do next. One of the first things that made me happy about Builders was the interaction between the silent protagonist and spirit. It plays with the trope in a bit of a humorous way -- it seems the hero of this game is largely reluctant to do anything, and doesn“t really understand what the heck is going on. You“re more or less prodded along your journey as God gives you a to-do list, and the few NPCs you meet probably think you“re crazy because you “hear voices” and what have you. It“s a fun plot that makes getting into a lighter, more directi version of Minecraft more interesting, to me. The experience is Minecraft, more or less. You build stuff out of raw materials, and the point of the game is to rebuild entire villages however you see fit. That kind of gameplay is entirely what you make of it, but that“s what“s made Minecraft is wildly popular as it“s become. The way Dragon Quest spins on it is by offering a more direct line of communication to the player, that stops things from ever becoming too intimidating. It sheds complexity in favor of telling a simple story, but that“s par for the course in even the mainline Dragon Quest series, much less its spinoffs. Replace Minecraft“s zombies with Slimes and other common Dragon Quest enemies, and you“ve got a decent picture of how combat works too. You“ll need to create healing items for yourself, simple replacement weapons if the one you“re using breaks, and more. You“ll get hungry and need to hide in your home at night -- it really does borrow heavily from Minecraft. I“m not exaggerating for the sake of it. At the end of the day, it seems like Dragon Quest Builders was created to give the conventions of that game a little more context, and a fun Dragon Quest plot. It“s honestly the first game to ever get me even remotely interested in what philosophies Minecraft is trying to communicate. I approached the demo expecting it to confuse and intimidate me, but it definitely delighted me, and has certainly warmed me up enough to put it on my personal “to buy” list. I“d absolutely recommend it, and it may be one of my favorite parts about the Square-Enix booth at this year's E3. Dragon Quest Builders releases for both the PlayStation 4 (physical and digital) and PlayStation Vita (digital only) on October 11th, 2016. We“ll offer more information as it comes.
  5. Jonathan Higgins

    Dragon Quest Builders - More Info, First Trailer

    Remember Dragon Quest Builders, the Minecraft-like “block-make RPG” spin on the Dragon Quest formula? The first footage of the game was shown at this morning“s Dragon Quest Event alongside the big Dragon Quest XI blowout. The whole “block-make RPG” premise is pretty immediately apparent here. The entire world, post Dragonlord takeover, is made of blocks! You start out with a hammer to collect material, then eventually build up to bigger and better things. You“ll go from creating your own home (likely from the minimum required materials) to bigger and better versions of everything, to eventually entire villages. You can even make your own castles, in time! This game is very Minecraft-like, indeed. It seems to capture that game“s quintessential philosophy while providing a unique Dragon Quest spin on combat and story. The combat is very action-based. You can swing your sword to take out slimes, and take cover from enemy magic and attacks by ducking behind blocks. That“s enough from me--have a look at the game“s first trailer below! The game is still confirmed for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita in Japan. No localization has been confirmed yet. Has this new footage piqued your interest? Are you excited for Minecraft-like Dragon Quest? Be sure to let us know!
  6. Jonathan Higgins

    Dragon Quest Builders Announced in Japan

    If Dragon Quest Heroes wasn“t out of left field enough for you, a new type of Dragon Quest game draws near! Dragon Quest Builders: Revive Alefgard is coming to PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita in Japan. It“s reportedly a Minecraft-like “block-make RPG” that“s going to mix elements of two iconic gameplay styles. It“s certainly a unique premise for the long-running franchise! If you recognize the name “Alefgard”, it“s because that“s the name of the first ever Dragon Quest world, from way back when it was known as Dragon Warrior in the West. It seems to be a direct sequel to the first Dragon Quest game, where it“s up to the player to build the ravaged world back to life. You“ll get to revive/rebuild the world as you see fit, and the story progresses as you do so...like any “block-make RPG” should! There“s not much more information, but I“ll certainly keep you posted. In the meantime, you can check out the game“s official website for more. It“s coming this winter in Japan. No localization has been announced for any Dragon Quest game outside of Heroes in a long while, but...I wouldn“t necessarily lose hope. Are you excited for more unique kinds of Dragon Quest games? Be sure to let us know!
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