Searching for a piece of your soul? I’d look here first.

This entry’s probably not gonna be long, because I can’t explain this game. I just can’t.

I got Child of Eden from LoveFilm yesterday. Since it’s the spiritual successor to Rez, and Rez is one of my favourite games of all time, I was excited to play it… but I was quite tired. I did play a couple of stages, and even then I was blown away and basically left speechless. I decided that I’d leave it and come back to it the next day, because I thought I’d be able to give it more accurate critique.

And I couldn’t. πŸ˜› I couldn’t find anything wrong with it then, and I can’t find anything wrong now, apart from its length, but that’s not a problem. Because it’s SUPPOSED to be one of those games you can just stick in every so often and play for a few hours. Kinda like Street Fighter. You can’t play this game for long stints.

I want to start with the graphics, but I’ll go with the gameplay first. πŸ™‚ The gameplay is simple – move your reticle over targets while holding A, and then release to fire. Classic Rail Shooter 101. πŸ˜‰ If you get into trouble, you can press B to use a Euphoria powerup, which is basically a bomb which clears the screen of any annoying bullets or enemies you can’t get in time. The gameplay is identical to Rez, apart from three things. The first is that YOU are the player – you’re not controlling an avatar. Secondly, health is now just a (pretty) meter in the bottom right (if you want to see it, that is – you can turn the entire HUD off if you want ;)). You don’t use Progress Nodes to level up your form, nor is your form basically your health – you just have a meter. Thirdly, you can now shoot rapid-fire lasers with either X or RT, which are the only things that can hit bullets or purple enemies. If they’d have added any more complexity, Child of Eden would have been too complex for what it’s supposed to be – a chillout game. Any less complexity, it would have probably become boring. So, there’s nothing wrong with the gameplay, it’s 100% pure Rail Shooter, with no added faggotry. πŸ˜€

Nowadays the market’s just saturated with games where you shoot, slash or blow enemies’ body parts off, and it’s just… the norm. It’s dull. What makes Child of Eden even more refreshing to play is that you’re not just going through Eden destroying things – you’re purifying them. You can just tell this game was designed to make you feel at peace. Not sure what it’s like with the Kinect, it could be crazy using that instead of a controller, but I actually want to find out. And I’m not a fan of the Kinect. πŸ˜€

Let’s get onto the graphics, shall we? Oh my God. I can put my hand on my heart and say that this is THE most beautiful game I’ve ever played. If you don’t believe me, you should look at some gameplay videos, or even some screenshots, but really, the only way to properly experience the indescribable beauty of this game is to play it. And it’s not just the graphics – the way the levels progress is equally beautiful. Take the second stage, Evolution – towards the end, you’re purifying manta rays and whales. When you’ve hit every part of the whale, it starts to fly into space, where you continue purifying it. When you’re done again, it gently scatters into a bunch of stars, which then move to form some sort of shape… a bird. Shapes start to appear near the stars, and after much intrigue, a magnificent phoenix appears from the stars, and starts slowly flying through space as you purify the different targets on its body. When the phoenix appeared, I automatically said “Oh, wow!” πŸ˜€ It’s just fantastic.

In addition, it’s been a VERY long time since I’ve seen a live actor in a game. UNLESS Lumi is NOT a live actor. In which case, HOLY SHIT, I’ve never, ever seen a 3D model that realistic. :O

The music is another big part of this game, and all their music is written by a band called the Genki Rockets. I’ve heard of them before, but never outside of any games made by Q Entertainment. I’ve just read about them on Wikipedia, and well… it’s a really strange band – only two people in the band are actually known, and the face of the band is just a fictional character. :S One of the known people actually WORKS for Q Entertainment, so that probably explains why I’ve only ever heard them in Lumines Live, Lumines II and E4 before. But anyway, the music is goddamn amazing. It syncs with the visuals perfectly. And you even have a say in how it sounds. If you press A, you get a clap sound. When you release a lock and fire at the enemies, you get a sound depending on how many enemies were locked. Letting an octa-lock go on the beat or at a musical climax sounds REALLY awesome, and the game even REWARDS you for doing that with extra points. Every sound is also delayed until the next 1/16th, so you can’t possibly mess up the sound of the music if you fail at keeping the rhythm. πŸ˜›

I’ll do the F.A.G.G.O.T later, but basically, even though you can’t play it for more than a few hours at a time (because it’s not designed to be), this game is the most beautiful, immersive, fantastic, best-sounding game released this year. The ONLY thing that can possibly stop me from saying “Child of Eden is the best game of 2011” is TES IV: Skyrim. And to be brutally honest, I really don’t believe that’s going to be very good. πŸ˜›

Although… that IS what I said before starting up Child of Eden… we’ll see. πŸ˜‰

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The ONLY game which lets you play as a gangsta’ pimp sheriff dragon!

Preloading Portal 2 on this pitiful connection is like trying to push an elephant through a mouse hole. The elephant being the 10GB Portal 2, and the mouse hole being my 1Mb connection, which cranks out a max download speed of 128KB/s. But of course, because of overhead and other technicalities, you don’t really ever hit that. πŸ˜›

So, while I was waiting, aside from playing some Dynasty Warriors 7 and joining a Skype call where trying to get a word in was like trying to push an elephant through a mouse hole (I left after about 2 minutes), I had a browse through Steam’s store. Nothing much, just a bunch of crap, as per usual. Except for one thing.

HOARD. This is how you initially catch my attention, a good name, and a symbol that looks like it’s going to poke your eye out. πŸ˜› It was a strategy game, and I don’t really like strategy games. However, it pressed my dragon button, since that’s what you play as. πŸ˜› And if it HADN’T pressed that button and kept me interested, I would’ve never noticed that it was an ACTION strategy game, or more specifically, a “Stratecade” game (strategy-arcade). On top of that, it was an indie game, so it had a chance of being really amazing. Of course… being an indie game, it also had the same chance of being really shitty… πŸ˜›

The screenshots didn’t give me enough, so I had a watch of the trailer. Because they actually include real gameplay footage, indie trailers are always infinitely better than trailers from full game studios. Yes, I’m looking at you, BETHESDA; your Elder Scrolls V trailer actually made me want to play the game LESS. Try not being shit at outlining the story. πŸ˜›

Of course, because of my elephant-mousehole connection, I couldn’t watch much of the trailer. Only enough for me to say “Well, I like the look of it, but unless there’s a demo, I’m not bothering.” And what do you know? There was a “download demo” button right there! πŸ˜€ Most companies totally fail at either the description stage, or the “I’m interested, I want to try it” stage, but these guys actually had brain cells, and made a demo available! πŸ˜› Because I could try the demo, I had a chance to love it. And since I DID love it, and since someone else I know ALSO loved it, they now have 14 of our pounds. πŸ˜€

Now, time for a proper F.A.G.G.O.T Review! πŸ˜€ HERE WE GO!

Hoard is an up-to-4-player strategy-arcade game. You control a dragon, and the basic aim is to amass the largest hoard you can by doing traditional dragon-like things, such as burning down crops and buildings, destroying castles, kidnapping princesses, roasting knights who come to rescue said princesses, killing thieves who are stupid enough to wander into your hoard while you’re near, making towns fear you, and generally being a gigantic draconic asshole. πŸ˜›

It seems mind-numbingly simple… but there’s a layer of strategy to all this. Destroying towns and stuff will get you gold, sure, but to get high scores, you need to let these towns grow, so they end up sending more valuable loads to other towns, which you can intercept. You also have to watch your hoard AND your hide – if anything gets stolen or if you get wounded, your multiplier resets. If you play well by avoiding damage and protecting your hoard from thieves (sheriff dragon ;)), your multiplier eventually increases, up to X3.

Kidnapping a princess and taking her back to your hoard nets you a ransom bonus after a while (dragon pimp ;)), but almost every knight on the map will head towards your hoard to save her. Damaging a town enough without destroying it makes that town fear you. To keep this fear, you have to make sure that other meddling dragons don’t destroy the town or make the town fear them more. In return, their archers won’t attack you,Β and they’ll send you tribute (ie: protection money, hence: gangster dragon ;)). There are also wizard towers which are tough and can be just plain irritating, but they hold a gem worth large amounts of gold. HOWEVER, carrying this gem makes you slow and vulnerable. If you look closely at everything, you can see how strategic this game can be. πŸ˜‰

If you do end up biting off more than you can chew and run out of health, you don’t die. Instead, you are wounded, and automatically fly back to your hoard to heal. And that’s nice, because I get bored of seeing “YOU DIED! Respawning in 5 seconds” – it just jolts you away from the action and makes you feel more detached. In Hoard, it’s like: “You’ve run out of health? It’s okay, here, I’ll take you back to your hoard, just wait a few seconds to heal… alright, go, get back out there!” It feels smoother. πŸ™‚

There are plenty of maps to choose from, and a few different game modes to try. There are also score/time targets to hit on each map, bronze, silver and gold. And unlike many, MANY other games, the gold target is actually challenging to hit. You can also play Hoard co-op with up to three others, but I reckon the real fun is in the competitive modes. There are also 100+ Steam-chievements to get, but I don’t really care about them. πŸ˜›

Now time for the F.A.G.G.O.T. πŸ™‚

Fun
Enjoyability – 8: Even with bots, this is really fun to play. The subtle layer of strategy also makes it really interesting, which adds to the fun.
Frustration – 0: I never felt any frustration while playing. There isn’t anything to be frustrated about, at all.

Audio
Sounds – 5: Hmm… well… the sounds are pretty average. The audio cues are quite lame, since I can’t tell what sound means what. But overall, the sound is just “OK”.
Music – 8: The music is really great, it makes me nod my head, and some parts make me smile. πŸ™‚ Sure, it’s not the most incredible music I’ve ever heard, but it sounds awesome, it’s catchy, and it’s randomised. Although the effect of this is subtle, it’s much better than listening to a loop, and it shows they’ve really put some effort into their soundtrack. πŸ™‚
Voice – 8: The only voices are the princesses, the death sounds, and the voice in the survival mode’s soundtrack. The princesses sound like cheesy, traditional princesses, which is funny. The death sounds range from “pleh” to “LMFAO”, and the way the vocalist chants “Dragon! (Dragon!)” at one point in the survival mode soundtrack is fucking ace. πŸ˜€

Graphics
Animation – 8: Since you’ll be looking at them for most of the game, the dragons hold the “animation spotlight”. πŸ˜‰ Happily, they’ve done a great job – the dragons look very fluid and natural. The other animations are few and far between, and they’re generally unremarkable.
Models – 6: It’s really weird. Everything looks 3D, and it MUST be 3D… but the dragons, knights and everything like that look like they’re pre-rendered. :S In any case, the dragons look nice, but they only start to look cool until you level up a few times. Other models just look kinda average.
Textures – 7: There are some ground tiles which look fantastic, and others which look a bit “meh”. I love the style, by the way; the game world looks like a game board – you can see the table it’s resting on. πŸ˜€ The dragons themselves are textured quite nicely, but again, the other models are “meh”. The texture work stands out in some areas and doesn’t in others, but there’s nothing that sticks out like a sore dick.
2D – 10: I freakin’ love the HUD and the menus, and that dragon backdrop that appears when you’re selecting game options. I also like that red dragon which appears in loading screens. Nothing wrong here.
Effects – 6: Well, they’re good, but nothing to write home about. The powerup effects and gold pickup effects are nice, but the rest are pretty meh. The firebreath effect looks a bit pathetic to me personally. πŸ˜›

Gameplay
Core – 9: Hoard looks like a mindless kill everything game, but look a little deeper, and there hides some really cool, fast-paced strategic gameplay. “This dragon is feared in this town – should I destroy it so he gets no tribute, or shall I try to make them fear me and protect it instead?” “Should I take a risk attacking that dragon to drop his multiplier?” Choices like these make it really engaging.
Immersion – 9: At the start of a game, it’ll be slow and a little boring. But after a few minutes, you’ll start thinking about what would be the best move to make. And since it’s so fast-paced, you’ll be concentrating and having to adapt quickly. This is immersive. Very immersive. So immersive, you might spend two hours playing and not notice. πŸ˜‰
Story – N/A: There is no story. And I’m glad there isn’t. Pinning a backstory to this game would’ve just been a waste of time. πŸ˜›
Replayability – 10: Since the gold medals are so difficult to get, and since multiplayer is so much fun, and since it’s a pick-up-and-play indie game, the replayability is incredible. I’ll be playing this again and again, trying to grab those gold medals. And if you’re an achievement whore, there’s plenty of them to fuck here. πŸ˜‰
Repetition – 6: Ah, yes. Well, playing this game for more than a couple hours at a time will get a bit boring – it may be me, but I’m not sure. I’m pretty sure Hoard wasn’t designed to be played for long stints at a time. Then again, there are people who play Starcrap all day… πŸ˜›

Online
Praise – 9: Co-operative is fun – you need teamwork to keep your multiplier up, the thieves out and the cash flowing in. However, competitive multiplayer is where it’s REALLY at – fierce yet friendly competition, which is what I like best. πŸ˜€ As for the netcode, well, it seems pretty solid – I never noticed any serious lag at all.
Criticisms – 3: My main gripe is that you can’t assign bots to empty spaces in an online game, which is a bit of a stupid omission. Then again, since I wasn’t hosting and couldn’t look for myself, this may just be Ped being a complete retard. πŸ˜› Nope, scratch that, you can’t add bots. :/
Fun – 9: As said in “Praise”, co-op is fun, but competitive is REALLY fun. Playing with humans is much more interesting and challenging than playing with artificial imbeciles. πŸ˜›

Total (After overly complicated but quite good Importance Machine calculations):
8.08/10 (Excellent)

Honestly, at least give the demo a try. It’s a really, really great game, and has a surprising amount of depth. πŸ˜€