Mother Russia Bleeds: A Wonderfully Dark Beat ‘Em Up

      “Mother Russia Bleeds” might be my favorite Beat ‘Em Up of all time. This is a game full of rich lore, fun gameplay and really brutal and beautiful design. What helped was playing it with my wife and one of my closest friends. Just the experience of us working together to figure out the pattern of the boss fights as we advanced through Russia really was such an amazingly fun experience. Before I get into details about the game itself and spoilers, I definitely recommend checking it out if you are a fan of Beat ‘Em Up style games.

“Mother Russia Bleeds” is an indie game created by the France based studio Le Cartel Studio and was published by Devolver Digital. Frédéric Coispeau designed the game with Alexandre Muttoni being the artist and director. The game itself was released in 2016.

The premise of the game is that you are four Roma who are used in street fights to make money in the slums. After your friend betrays you to the government you find yourself experimented on. After escaping the lab, you seek revenge against all those who wronged you.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Graphics – This is a beautiful 8-bit game. The game is dark and gritty while at the same time giving color where it is appropriate. Whenever you are fighting mafia or are in club, the colors stand out. The game becomes progressively more colorful until you get to the end where red and black are the main contrasts. This is a beautifully brutal game and I love the artistic choices the artists made when designing bosses (military generals, butchers, mad scientists) as you advance through the game as you unravel the conspiracy.

Difficulty – This was a difficult game. I’m glad that I didn’t play this alone. There are a few boss battles and fight sequences where having more than one person helps you figure out and learn the patterns. The greatest example of this is the helicopter attacking through a window as you fight oncoming goons. It is stressful and that was one point where the three of us took a break. Same went for the final boss too. He had 3 phases and each phase was harder than the last. This is a game where the build up in difficulty is progressive and challenging. Suffice to say, I enjoyed it. A game should make you better at it, and that can only come through challenge.

The Gameplay – Beat ‘Em Ups are a fun style of game. In this case it is also a side scroller too, so you can’t go back to where you were before. This provides a good challenge as when you knock enemies off screen you can’t attack them again until they’ve returned to the window of the fight. I really enjoyed the gameplay. You have Nekro which lets you heal up but also powers you up for a super move as well. There are also isn’t healing everywhere and you can only get Nekro from certain enemies you’ve killed at a certain time. This keeps the tension up as you advance through the levels. There is also a great enemy variety. You fight gangsters, zombies, soldiers, mob bosses, masochists in pig masks and quite a few others. The enemies all have different attack styles as well. This is a game that you have to learn. It isn’t easy and that makes all the more amazing. The final boss is another great example of this. The incarnation of Nekro is the punk rock skeleton who has three phases. One phase is fighting copies of yourself and a closing in wall that you throw syringes at, phase two are living syringes and muscle dropping down and the final phase is the boss itself in 2 forms. It is hard and so very rewarding.

The World and Story – The game takes place just before the Russian Revolution. You are Four Roma (Sergei, Ivan, Natasha and Boris) who are betrayed by your friend Mikhail and given to the government to be experimented on. You survive but become addicted to Nekro in the process. From here you are seeking revenge against your former friend and end up helping another friend as the revolution begins. It is a dark, violent and twisted world as you are the lowest rung in society and everyone wants you dead. You end up in some fascinating environments too on your quest for revenge. You fight in a sex club where you fight people in pig masks and battle against a giant butcher at the end, you fight on a train, against military officers and police and finally against a living embodiment of the drug itself. It is in the final fight where my wife and our friend ended up getting the bad ending. If you use the drug to defeat the final boss than you die of an overdose and are remembered by the revolution. If you succeed without using the drug than a statue is made to honor you in how you helped the revolution. We got the bad ending, which I honestly thought was more realistic to the world the story takes places in and was the better story.

As you can tell, I loved this game. This is a Beat ‘Em Up better than “X-Men” or the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” games. I enjoyed both of those games but this one built on the core fun base game they had. The fact that the story has a point gives even more power to it. It is a tragedy about addiction as well as just how costly revolutions are on the people, while also recognizing the importance of fighting corruption. Our protagonists are the lowest within society and them grabbing their own agency lends power to the narrative as they seek revenge against those who wronged them. This was a really fun game and I definitely plan to check out more games from this studio.

Final Score: 10 / 10 This is the perfect Beat ‘Em Up.

 

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Pac-Man Battle Royal: Fun With Friends Not Good Replay Value

     The Coin Jam is a pretty amazing arcade and last time I was there with a friend and my fiance we happened to be there on “Free to Play” day where certain games you can play for free. “Pac-Man Battle Royal” was the game we ended up choosing first and a random person joined us to make it the full 4 player battle royal.

What I recently learned is the is the 17th game in the Pac-Man Arcade series, though officially only the 11th. Namco Bandai Games was the developer and it was released in 2011.

So now the question is how does it hold up? Often how I judge games is based off story, but I can’t really with a versus game like this and Pac-Man doesn’t really have a story so in the end it all comes down to gameplay and replay value.

The replay value is alright. We played two full games, with me winning the second time playing. Would I play it again? With friends, yes I would especially if we are at the Coin Jam as they have good drinks that make a simple game like this more enjoyable, even though it does get repetitive. There was a reason we only played 2 games.

Gameplay is repetitive, it is Pac-Man so it is predictable but the fact that there are ghosts adds a little bit of randomness to each match and strategy as does the eating of the fruit which changes where the dots are on the map. The gameplay is fun but in the end those few bits of variety aren’t enough to make it great. Now if one could play a ghost or do more to change the map, that’d be different, but this isn’t the case.

If you happen to be around when this game is available and you just went to do a quick matches in an easy versus style game you will probably enjoy it. I wouldn’t call it good, the game would have to do a lot more and have a lot more variety to make it good…but it is enjoyable with friends and good for a few quick rounds.

Final Score: 7 / 10

Diablo III: Reaper of Souls – Better Gameplay, New Class and a More Immersive Story

Diablo III Reaper of Souls

    “Reaper of Souls” is one of the best expansions I’ve played. “Diablo III” was already a game I’d beaten at least twice before buying it and the expansion improved upon some of the problems in the story from the first game as well as adding a lot of other elements that raised the replay value and made it so I continued to put time into Kengin my Witch Doctor and continue to put time in until this day. This is what a great expansion is supposed to do. Blizzard really does know how to make great expansions…from “Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne,” Starcraft: Brood War” and “Diablo II: Lord of Destruction” I have yet to be disappointed in any of them in how they’ve improved both the gameplay and changed things up in the story on the ones that came before.

The Pros:

 Gameplay – Things have been improved immensely with Bounties and Nephalem Rifts that give you the chance to face challenging foes and discover amazing worlds like the Cow Level, Whimyshire (Where you kill Unicorns, Teddy Bears and Flowers) and the realm of Greed where you fight another one of the evils who is a fat Goblin who gives you tons of great awards just for entering her realm after killing one of the Treasure Goblins. This is one reason I keep bringing my Witch Doctor back and I can’t wait to take more characters through the the game.

 Difficulty –  In this the bosses are more difficult and you feel their difficulty in the later levels of Torment. I really appreciate that Blizzard has the Torment difficulties as Normal and Expert were too easy and my Witch Doctor didn’t even die until I’d gotten a few levels into Torment. Dying adds stakes and it makes you appreciate the enemies and Nephalem Rifts and Infernal Machines allow you to face those challenges beyond facing the bosses on higher difficulties for Bounties from Tyrael.

SPOILERS ahead

Story – I’m going to start with the story. Act V reveals more about your character beyond them being just a noble archetype of whatever they are playing and gives your character anger and emotional investment. You see this in the hunt for Adria as your hero gets angrier for her escape and using of her daughter and also anger at Maltheal for his slaughter of the innocents of Westmarch as you learn over the course of the story he’s gone mad and wants to solve the problem of evil by destroying all those with Demon Blood, which is all the members of Sanctuary since humanity was born out of Angels and Demons who had children together and just wanted to escape the Eternal Conflict.

The World – The world is expansive in this one and it is a pretty large act. You get to go Westmarch, which is this wonderful large Gothic town who we learned last game defeated Tristam in a war but is now in the middle of a Civil War and ends with no one in control to rule. There are the Battlefields of Eternity which have scavenger demons all over the place and portals to new dimensions and there is the Pandemonium Fortress, a haunting angelic fortress that feels like a fortress of death, a fitting place for Malthael to make his home base. It is also a prison too so you get the chance to face some powerful angels and demons there.

The Characters – The characters are wonderful and it is great seeing Tyrael and Imperius’s relationship to Malthael as they mourn their fallen brother but will not call him, though they will help you get to him to kill him. It is powerful seeing their conflicted loyalties as Tyrael realizes you could be the destruction of all at the end and Imperius respects you even as he hates you for the same reasons as Malthael and for walking all over Angelic Ground in the Heavens. Adria gets some backstory too as we see how persecution lead her to Diablo…though I hate that in the end she is just another Demon Boss. All the characters have more revealed about them and the fact that Diablo is free at the end gives me hope that we’ll see the Seven Evils return.

The Crusader – The Crusader is the added class and I’ve been leveling her up right now as  I continue to work on my Witch Doctor and some of the other classes. I like how they are tied to the same realm as the Paladins but also very different. I named one of mine after a friend and I really enjoy their playstyle as back in College and High School the Paladin was my main in “Diablo II” and the Warrior was my main in the first “Diablo.” She is my secondary to Kengin who is my main character.

Malthael – Malthael is one of the best villains to come out of Diablo. You see his minions destroy Westmarch and your saving it can’t prevent the destruction, he nearly destroys the world and everyone you saves he takes away. He is a really deadly villain and he nearly wins at the end. I never got that from Diablo, Belial (Though he at least kills Cain via Maghda) or Azmodan in the last game. Diablo especially was underwhelming for being the big bad of last game…not enough was done to show the threat of what destroying the High Heavens would mean or what it would be doing on our realm…it was too far removed, and even though it was fun and I liked the Angels and was invested since my personality can be a Paladin type in games, it wasn’t enough. Westmarch is personal and everything Malthael does is personal as well as the confrontation with Adria. That is what the last game lacked and took away from the villains comparing to Malthael, who is directly hurting everyone you try and help and is always out of your reach.

Kengin Witch Doctor

    Rather than writing a concrete con I’m going to write what I would have done differently since it does relate to why I won’t be giving this game a perfect 10 / 10. The main thing I’d change in this game is I would have added another class. We got two new classes in “Lord of Destruction” and as Epic as Act V is, it was also epic in “Lord of Destruction” too but we got more characters out of it. I also would have done more to explore the other Angels and their relationship to Malthael and Tyrael as Imperius is the only one who interacts with Tyrael really and Tyrael is the only one who interacts with Malthael. There were so many great character opportunities here, as well as a chance for us to meet and get to know the rest of the Council more fully. There is also no explanation of why Diablo (and no mention of the other Evils) is now free after the Black Soulstone was destroyed. Blizzard hasn’t explained that yet at all. These are the things that I would have changed and that would have made it a perfect game. This is still one of Blizzard’s great expansions and it does solve a lot of the problems of “Diablo III.”

Final Score: 9.7 / 10.

Kengin Witch Doctor 7252016

Original “Dawn of War” Franchise Reviews

Dawn_of_War_box_art

    It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed games, the last one being gone home…as I’m still suck in the “Starcraft: Brood War” campaign reviews on the Zerg Campaign. I don’t feel comfortable reviewing the campaign or a game until I’ve finished the campaign and got to try out the other features. For “Dawn of War” this will be easy, minus the “Winter Assault” campaign of the 2nd game which I remember being rather difficult.

      I’ve read some of the “Space Wolf Omnibus” as well as some of the Codexes on the different factions, so the world has always been rather interesting to since college, as my introduction to this universe was through “Starcraft” who took inspiration from this game.

    This is a franchise that inspired “Starcraft” as the Zerg are inspired by the Tyranids, the Protoss by the Eldar and the Humans have space marines in both worlds and tend to have governments that end up being based in nobility or tyranny, and of course having no elected leaders. Where the emphasis on Starcraft was on politics though, Warhammer 40K has more so been on magic and survival as the different factions rarely if ever worked together due to them representing the worst of humanity so often (fear, zealotry, etc.). 40K is also more fun in a lot of ways as the Orks, love to fight for the sake of fighting.

   In each of these reviews I’ll go into gameplay, what faction I enjoyed the most and how I thought the story campaign was executed. These will be the deciding factors on what score each of them get, and when I get a better computer I plan to do this for the “Dawn of War 2” franchise as well.