Tag Archives: PlayStation 4

Review: Enter the Gungeon

gungeon title card

I’ve spent a countless number of hours playing Enter the Gungeon. It’s up there among my favorite rogue-lite games, right next to the Binding of Isaac games and Spelunky. For this reason, I thought it’d be fitting to write my thoughts on one of my favorite games for the PS4. There are still some faults found in the game, but let’s get on with the review!

 

Enter the Gungeon is a downloadable game packed with charm, intelligent design, and satisfying gameplay wrapped up in one (mostly) tight package. As the title implies, players enter a randomly generated dungeon (or as it is known here, a gungeon) utilizing a vast array of guns to overcome enemies and obstacles. Assuming the role of an adventurer with a past they regret, you enter the gungeon hoping to attain a legendary gun that can kill the past. Yes, you read that right, your goal is to kill the past. Specifically, your character’s past. The game’s trailer emphasizes this point, if you’d like to hear it for yourself. I’ll link the gameplay trailer right here.

gungeon entrance

Based on this trailer alone, I was sold on Gungeon’s premise. All that remained to win me over was a solid gameplay loop, and I’m happy to report that the game succeeds on that front. There is a massive variety of guns that can be collected across many hours of gameplay, with a solid number of passive and active items available to spice up each run. The number of weaponry available to players is staggering, and with the game’s free supply drop update that went live a few months ago, there are even more choices available. Collecting these different guns is a joy of its own, thanks to their creative utility and fun design choices. Chests filled with loot are peppered on each floor of the gungeon, ensuring you access to a wide variety of fun weaponry.

 

The game features the expected ensemble of base weaponry, including handguns, shotguns, rifles, machine guns, and other traditional guns that we have come to expect. However, the game’s wacky and inventive munitions is where it truly shines. For example, one of my favorite guns in the game is called the Shell. This is a gun that resembles a shotgun shell, and when fired, it pops out three shotguns, which proceed to fire two bullets from those shotguns. The in-game description of this weapon reads: “This strange gun, shaped like a shotgun shell, fires bullets that are shaped like shotguns. Those shotgun-shaped bullets will fire a spray of rounds upon impact, much like a shotgun would.” Another example of the unique weaponry involves the Witch Pistol, which fires bullets that have a 10% chance of turning the hit enemy into a chicken. Or how about the Magic Lamp, a gun that is a literal lamp which causes a genie to emerge and sucker-punch any enemies that are unfortunate enough to cross his path. This is just a few examples from the list of over 130 guns that are available to collect and use against enemies. The creative ideas at play here are a riot, and I loved discovering new weaponry and items every time I played the game.

gungeon supply drop update card

Similar in fashion to other rogue-lites, killing all of the enemies in a room will unlock the doors stopping the player’s progression, and award them currency that can be used at the in-game shop. Every character and enemy you run across during the journey through the Gungeon has a unique personality that gives a sense of depth to the game’s world, even if the randomly-generated levels have layouts that are recognizable after a dozen or so runs through.

 

Unlocking certain features outside of the Gungeon is accomplished by helping NPC’s during a run, similarly accomplished like in Crypt of the Necrodancer, and gives the game a path of upgradability to the player’s hub world that is satisfying and rewarding. However, I still felt like I was given enough utility to overcome most obstacles, even in the early game or if my gun loadout was lacking compared to previous runs. This is another thing that I think Enter the Gungeon does very well; it balances a level of progression with player skill, avoiding the ever-popular “RNG issue” (RNG stands for random number generator) that affects other rogue-lite games such as The Binding of Isaac. In Isaac, if you play a run of the game that gives you crappy upgrades at the beginning, you feel at a severe disadvantage against the game’s obstacles, and are thus tempted to restart that run from the beginning. In Gungeon, this feeling is nearly absent, because the starting weaponry given to you is quite good, at least for the game’s first two floors. During your time after those two floors, you are pretty much guaranteed to find even better weaponry than your starting guns, helping balance the game’s difficulty without feeling too easy or difficult.

gungeon gatling gull

On the subject of comparisons to other rogue-lite games, I think the boss fights in Gungeon and Isaac should be compared. In Isaac, most of the boss fights can be beaten relatively quickly, even without any damage upgrades. In Enter the Gungeon, this is simply not the case. Even with a better arsenal at your disposal, boss fights are still the most lengthy and difficult challenge you will come across. This should be expected. However, I think the boss fights could stand to be a bit shorter, especially in the early game when your weapons are usually not as strong as during the late game. When fighting bosses with your default guns, which can be normal during the first or second floors, the fights feel like they can take ages to beat. This makes the battle feel like a drag instead of the exciting conclusion to a floor that it should be. Despite this, I found most of the boss fights to feel fair and fun, especially when you learn the boss patterns and effectively dodge their attacks. There’s a couple of bosses that I think are unfairly difficult, namely the Ammoconda (oh yeah, all of the bosses have fun gun-centric names to accompany their unique designs!), but most of the boss fights feel fair, if on the long side.

gungeon bullet king battle

With a cast of memorable characters, a bevy of awesome weaponry to collect, and an engaging gameplay loop that makes you want to play just one more round, Enter the Gungeon is one of my favorite rogue-lite games. The art style is pleasing and the enemy designs all fit within the game’s world. Although the boss fights could stand to be a bit shorter, the entire package provides a wonderful experience that I think is among publisher Devolver Digital’s best games yet. Once Enter the Gungeon releases on Nintendo Switch, I’ll be there day one to play through all of it again!

gungeon switch

Thank you for reading, and have a great weekend.

  • Matt
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Nier: Automata – A Leg Up On Its Predecessor (Review)

nier automata carnival

Note: Spoilers ARE present. I played a total of 40 hours, finishing the game three times and experiencing the three main endings of the game (including the two big choices that are made at the very end of the third playthrough). I also completed about 90% of the game’s sidequests, and plan to finish the rest of them soon.

 

Before I start this review, I should note that I have not played the entirety of the first Nier game. I own the PlayStation 3 copy of the game, and have booted it up once, but decided to watch my favorite group of people on YouTube play through the game instead. Why did I do this? I believe it was during a deluge of other game releases that had me preoccupied, and it saddens me that I didn’t play through the first Nier myself. However, after watching the entirety of the first game (yes, multiple endings and all!) I believe I have a good grasp of the story and gameplay. Because of this, I felt prepared to give game director Yoko Taro’s latest installment in the Nier franchise Nier: Automata a shot, especially after hearing the positive press that the game has received.

Nier Automata enemy and 2b

From my understanding, the gameplay systems present in Drakengard and Nier are not usually the reason people are so fond of these niche titles. Instead, it is the beautiful and unique stories told that capture fans’ hearts and keep them wanting to play.

 

When it was announced that the world-renowned Japanese game developers at Platinum Games would be creating a new Nier title with Yoko Taro at the helm, many fans of the first game, myself included, were enthralled. The brilliant storytelling from Yoko Taro’s pen and paper, brought to life with the advanced game systems that Platinum is known for, could combine to create a truly remarkable new entry. Thankfully, these expectations have been met, and dare I say it, surpassed. Nier: Automata is a beautiful game with likeable characters, an unforgettable story, and an engrossing gameplay hook that fans of the action genre have come to expect.

 

The plug-in chip system used to tailor the player’s gameplay style, both in combat and out of combat, is satisfying and flexible. Players collect a variety of skills, called electronic chips, that can be applied to their character to enhance a multitude of abilities. A custom chip set can be crafted, or the game can be told to create a balanced chip set – regardless, the system is well thought out and a fun place to craft your own unique playstyle. Whether you specialize in mid-air combos, ranged attacks, or hacking your opponents, there are a decent variety of choices for the player to take down enemies that keep things from getting stale.

nier automata reverse cover

Do I need to say anything about the game’s soundtrack? It’s phenomenal. I’m listening to it as I write this review, and will probably be listening to it six months from now, as I did with the first Nier game. If nothing else, the soundtrack needs to be heard and appreciated even by those who do not plan to play Nier: Automata. There are a few remixed tracks that crop up in the sequel from the first game, and they are interwoven in a smooth way that I appreciated.

nier automata trees

Actually, I do have one more thing to say about the soundtrack. There is a fair amount of the hacking minigame present in Nier: Automata, and it is almost exclusively present in the game’s second playthrough. Players will probably notice that any background music perfectly transitions into a chip-tune sound when the change from combat to hacking minigame occurs. Every time this musical transition happened, I was impressed. The way this is implemented at any point of gameplay is satisfying, but the way this transition occurs within the game’s final moments during the credits sequence is absolutely amazing. Some of Nier: Automata’s vocal tracks are sung in both English and Japanese, and feature a bit-tune version of these songs as well. The end credits sequence had my jaw hung open when there were transitions between not just the bit-tune and vocal versions of the same song, but also the multiple languages being sung. For example, a few lines of a track were sung in English, and then a few lines would be sung in the Japanese track, all in a seamless transition. To say it is breathtaking would be an understatement. This game has one of my favorite soundtracks not just for games, but to anything. The game features truly marvelous music that should not be missed.

nier automata 2b and 9s

 

Oh, and on that credits sequence – it’s one of my favorites in any game. Wonderful way to wrap up the story and feature an intense battle before the final cutscene.

 

To be completely honest, I’m rather intimidated to write about the story that is present in Nier: Automata. Similar to its predecessor, the story is engaging, complex, and features multiple likeable characters that have plenty of screentime. I am afraid that I cannot give the multiple narratives at play enough credit where the credit is due. With this in mind, I will do my best to provide a short write-up of my favorite bits of the story. Perhaps my favorite moments in the game’s story are the real-world questions that the game asks. What is the meaning of our existence? Do we have desires worth fighting for, and are those goals ultimately worth the sacrifices we make? These questions are addressed by the main characters as well as side quest characters that bring the world in Nier: Automata to life. Both friendly and hostile machines show a startling level of humanity that I did not at first expect from the game’s characters, and the fact that this is accomplished with zero humans present in the story is a remarkable feat in my eyes. For a better look at the themes that I most appreciated in this game’s story, I think George from SuperBunnyHop can provide a more detailed explanation. I’ll link his Nier: Automata video right here.

Nier automata cavalry

Now, I’ve done enough gushing about all of the game’s good. Although I think Nier: Automata is a simply astounding game that should not be missed, I think a lack of intricate combos like those present in other Platinum games like Bayonetta is a missed opportunity. The combat is more than serviceable, but I found it to be on the more simple side. As a big fan of seeing vast button combinations that can be executed in battle, I could see a list of unique combo attacks being a positive addition to the game. Something akin to Bayonetta or Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance’s combo system would add a great deal to the game’s already satisfactory battle system.

Another criticism I can provide is the over-reliance on fetch quests in the game’s side quests. Although most of the side quests provide an interesting narrative to accompany them, some of the quests feel to rest a bit too much on collecting a certain resource for an NPC, or going off to slay the machines they ask you to kill. These issues are not as big a problem as they would be in other games, thanks to Nier: Automata’s satisfying movement, but they are still worth noting.

nier automata emil

To wrap this review up, I think that if you own a PS4, and have either played Nier or are okay with doing research in that game’s story to better understand Nier: Automata’s universe, you owe it to yourself to play this game. Yoko Taro and the wonderful folks at Platinum have crafted an experience that I will not forget anytime soon, featuring extremely engaging characters, a gripping storyline, and some of the best music in today’s modern world. Yes, I just said that. True, it is a bold claim, but I believe that Nier and Nier: Automata’s soundtracks offer music that rivals the best of the best, both within and outside of video games.

 

If you’ve made it this far, thank you greatly for reading my review of Nier: Automata. I had a good deal of fun writing this review, with the game’s soundtrack accompanying my writing. If you’re interested in seeing my other work, feel free to follow me on Twitter or here on WordPress. Have a great Memorial Day, all.

 

  • Matt