deranged
Reviews

Deranged: A Review of a Gothic Survival Horror Game

A dark board game with a fun and frantic energy.


We sat down to play Deranged, a gothic-style horror board game from UltraPro Entertainment and Hobby World. Let’s talk about the way the game is played, the complexity of the rules, and if it is the right fit for your board game nights!

Deranged is designed for 3-6 players and takes between 90-180 minutes to play. It is designed for ages 14+, so this isn’t pastel-colored, light-hearted family fun. It is a semi-cooperative survival game. You choose to be one of a handful of characters that has a small backstory assigned to them. All of you have ended up in a town called Wutburg. What started out as a seemingly harmless rural settlement has turned dark and deadly very quickly. Now your goal is to escape within a set time limit, or become one of the town’s feral Deranged.

The game consists of four quadrants of the town that you explore. You have destinations to search, hiding spaces to run to, loot you can find, and creatures you must outrun. The game is fast-paced, despite the time it takes to complete it. Turns typically don’t take long to resolve and the pieces are ever-moving. You keep track of both your health and your sanity, so there is some “action economy” involved. What are you willing to sacrifice to get your goals? Certain actions are more powerful but they trigger the time to change. And with the game having a set time limit, you may find yourself racing to save your character.

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The game is the most fun if you get into the roleplay element of it. This definitely is not necessary, but we had a great time embodying these characters and making their choices. At the end of our first run, two characters survived and two ended up Deranged. There was a tense moment at the end when one character had to decide whether to save himself or go out in a blaze of glory while defending others.

Deranged is beautiful to look at. The art is the right mix of fun and creepy, and the miniatures are very detailed. But if there was to be a criticism about Deranged it is that there is just too much going on. The rules read a bit complicated, and set up took us a very long time. There are too many different card stacks and it left us wishing some things, like looting items, were more streamlined so we only needed one stack instead of three. That being said, what felt overwhelmingly complex at first was actually extremely simple once you start playing.

Deranged has plenty of replayability as it has a handful of scenarios to go through. It also comes with a first-play scenario to introduce you to the game without getting overly complicated.

Do we recommend Deranged? We do! It was dark and creepy fun and by the end of our first playthrough we were scrambling in panic to save ourselves.

We give Deranged and 8 on a d10! You can purchase it via the link below.

Reviews

The Bartimaeus Trilogy – A Review

We look back at a fun and imaginative trilogy that forever impacted my love of reading.


The Bartimaeus Trilogy is a witty, engaging, and all-around fun read by author Jonathan Stroud. The books consist of The Amulet of Samarkand, The Golem’s Eye, and Ptolemy’s Gate. I read these books when I was in high school, and to say that they impacted my life would be a severe understatement. Let’s dive into what they are about to see if they will be a great read for you, as well!

The Bartimaeus Trilogy follows three major characters. The talkative and clever djinni Bartimaeus, the ambitious and quiet magician Nathaniel, and the brave and strong-willed rebel Kitty. The chapters vary from each of their POV’s, making it easy to dive right into their heads and hearts. The trilogy takes us on a fantastical world of an alternative London. One where the rich and powerful magicians control others through the summoning and enslavement of spirits such as djinn, imps, powerful afreet, and more. But the people of London won’t stand for this control and domination much longer. What follows is a tale of systems of power, of corruption, of freedom, and what is means to be “human”.

One of the best parts about these books is how you get three stories rolled into one due to the varying POV’s. You get the world of backstabbing political corruption with Nathaniel. You get the world of secret rebellions and spies with Kitty. And you get the magical world of spirits and power through Bartimaeus.

I immediately fell in love with these books when I first discovered them in my old school’s library. Often I would fall asleep reading because I couldn’t put it down. To date not only is this the first book series I have fully read twice over, but I have actually read it three times and will happily continue to read for the rest of my life. The characters are complex and deep, the struggles everyone goes through are heartfelt, and even in this fantasy London there is a ring of truth to the dynamics that are explored.

The award-winning Bartimaeus Trilogy also has a fourth companion that is more of a prequel (though set hundreds of years prior to these events). It is titled the Ring of Solomon and is also a fantastic read. It features Bartimaeus, but not Nathaniel or Kitty.

You can see these books on Amazon here.

Happy reading!


Ascension Eternal
Fantasy Topics, Opinion, Reviews

Ascension: Eternal 10th-Anniversary Board Game Review

A fun, Magic the Gathering-inspired deckbuilding game


We were given a free copy of Ascension: Eternal, in exchange for a fair review. All opinions are our own. Ascension: Eternal was designed by Justin Gary, Rob Dougherty, and Brian Kibler, and is manufactured by UltraPRO.

Ascension: Eternal is a fast-paced blend of Magic the Gathering and action role-playing video game. Each game can be played in as quickly as 20 minutes with two players. Up to six can play with expansions. At first glance, it can appear overwhelming with its large abundance of cards and tokens but it’s actually rather simple in its design. Players build a deck of Heroes and Constructs to be the first to collect the most amount of tokens. It’s all about strategy and playing the battlefield.

Ascension Eternal

Lore

For anyone who is a fan of lore – like us – there is an entire backstory to Ascension. It reads as follows:

Welcome to the world of Vigil. The barrier that protected Vigil from distant realms is collapsing. Samael, the Fallen One, has returned with an army of monsters from beyond. You are one of the legendary warriors capable of protecting Vigil from annihilation, but you cannot do it alone. Recruit mighty heroes and wield powerful constructs to aid you in battle. Each honor and defeat Samael’s forces to save the world!

How to Play

We checked out the 10th-anniversary edition of Ascension Anniversary. The massive box comes with 181 cards – all of which are stunning – and one layout mat to help you keep track of card placement. Each player starts with a deck consisting of 10 identical cards. Cards include either Runes that are used to buy new cards or Power that is used to fight monsters and cultists.

Ascension Eternal
Gamora the cat getting in on the action.

Players draw five cards and use them to gain new Heroes and Constructs or fight Monsters. The original deck grows and expands over time as players gain new Heroes and Constructs. Both cost Runes and help to defeat monsters, draw cards, or grant other boons to gain Honor tokens. Whereas Monster cards can only be defeated by Power and grant you certain abilities upon beating them.

The game ends when the last token is collected. Players then add up all their tokens and Honor points listed on their cards. The one with the most Honor is the winner.

Thoughts

It’s all about knowing what cards you have in your deck and what is out on the field. It’s a strategic game but isn’t complicated in any way. The rules are presented in an easy-to-understand and straightforward way. And the board gives a clear presentation of where cards go and how to set up the game.

There is one major thing we wish were included with the set. The addition of a simple handout for players to keep track of rules would be useful. Ascension is played similarly to Tyrants of the Underdark which does include a guide for each player. Having to pull out the rulebook each time to check what to do can slow down game time.

Ascension Eternal

Another thing is to see who plays first. It’s a pet peeve of ours. Ascension says choose randomly which is fine but there could be a more fun mechanic to see who starts. Other games use fun, quirky mechanics, like ‘the last person who ate a doughnut’ or ‘the oldest or youngest’.

Verdict

Ascension: Eternal is built for fans of Magic the Gather and Dungeons & Dragons. It may look intimidating but can be learned in a short amount of time. Each game can be played quickly as well leaving you plenty of time to play multiple games per night. The cards are beautiful and the lore is engaging and allows players to role-play out moments if they so choose.

We give Ascension: Eternal a 9 on a d10!

Dragon Age: Dark Fortress
Fantasy Topics, Opinion, Reviews

Dragon Age: Dark Fortress Review

It’s comic book Wednesday! This week we’re taking a look at Dragon Age: Dark Fortress

Written by Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir, Dark Fortress is a three-issue series packed with familiar faces and an engaging story. It follows several characters from the Dragon Age games and comics like fan-favorite Fenris. Its fast-paced action and detailed characters drive the plot and build upon previously placed lore elements to tell a truly fantastic story.

Returning to the narrative are (my favorite characters) Vaea and Ser Aaron Hawthorne – introduced in Dragon Age: Knight Errant – along with Tessa and Marius – introduced in Dragon Age: Magekiller – and Francesca the mage – introduced in Dragon Age: Deception. Yes, there are a lot of people to follow and you don’t necessarily have to read any previous material to follow along – though it helps – and I highly recommend you do so.

Story

They team up with Fenris – albeit hesitantly – as he hunts down a Tevinter mage. Something Fenris does quite often and quite well. The group is searching for a magical artifact in the possession of an Orlesian dignitary. It has the capabilities to create a powerful warrior similar to Fenris. The Qunari also join in on the action as they do in just about every situation involving mages and things get worse for everyone involved.

The story manages to tell quite a lot in a short amount of time. The villain and his motivations are developed quickly and effectively and the stakes are high. The writing is smooth and flows well with the art and all together tells a wonderful story that sets up future events. From epic backdrops to individual character portraits, everything artist Fernando Heinz Furukawa draws is stunning and full of life.

Dragon Age

Characters

What is so fascinating about the Dragon Age series as a whole is how it treats its characters. While they are capable warriors and magic practitioners they each feel real and have their own motivations. The comics get to dive into them more so than the games as well. Dark Fortress sheds more light on Fenris even though Dragon Age 2 told a lot of his story. The writers do a fantastic job at showing his emotions through the way he acts and speaks. It’s something they do well with each one of the characters.

Each character also gets a moment to shine throughout the short three-arc story. Vaea shows off her rogue skills, the charismatic Ser Aaron distracts and outwits opponents, and Francesca learns to utilize her magic and grow more powerful. These details are typically something you see in a lengthy game or movie but the comics do it just as well if not better.

It’s more than a story about fighting evil and stopping the villain. Dragon Age has always been about character development and it’s nice to see it carried out throughout the comics. You really get to feel and understand each person.


Dragon Age: Dark Fortress is highly recommended for fantasy fans! It is thrilling, beautiful, and tells a great story with an even better cast of characters. We give it a 10 on a d10.

loners
Reviews

“Loners”: a Dwarven Fantasy Book Review

A fun, D&D- inspired book that doesn’t take itself too seriously.


We were given a free copy of Loners, both ebook and audiobook format, in exchange for a fair review. All opinions are our own. Loners is authored by DB Bray and Wahida Clark, and the audiobook is narrated by Walt Allen.

Loners is a book that knows its niche well. And that is Dungeons & Dragons fans. Any fans of fantasy in general will have their eye turned by this book, especially due to the great cover, but for D&D players it will truly shine. It’s fun, comical, grand, and has strokes of darker themes and moments without breaking too long from the lighter, fast-paced tone of the story.

The summary for Loners is:

Jari Rockjaw just wants a quiet life and a homestead to call his own. He has been a bounty hunter in Labrys for over one hundred years. And it’s getting old. Battle after battle, allies lost and gained, he now wants to smoke his pipe in the solitude far from the human cities he despises. An option to do so comes his way when the king of Ekepia asks for a favor. Jari is tasked with destroying the most evil dwarf ever to walk the world!

With Jari’s best mates at his side, they team up for one last mission . . . a mission that will be nearly impossible to pull off. But just like everything else in life….if the juice is worth the squeeze, YOU take the risk. The only question, Jari must ask himself is . . . Is retirement really worth dying for?

The characters that really shine in this work are Jari and Betha. Jari is pragmatic, kind, and easily likeable. Betha is a breath of fresh air in the world of fantasy as a female minotaur who does not get sexualized. It is really their friendship and dedication to one another that is the beating heart of the story.

Driven by a fast pace, we follow Jari, Betha, and their adventuring party across the lands. There are a variety of characters encountered, and it is nice to see dwarven characters included that aren’t automatically all miners or forgers. The world building when it comes to the minotaur culture is really great, and it feels as if you step into an undiscovered world altogether.

The narration on the audiobook is very pleasing to listen to. Walt Allen has a great tone that easily evokes imagery. At just over nine hours, it is not a long listen and is great for readers who want a fun summer read rather than those looking for a longer fantasy series.

All in all, we give Loners a 9 on a d10!

It is available on Amazon in ebook, audiobook, hardback, and paperback.

You can find them on Twitter:

DB Bray- Writer #resist (@DB__Bray) / Twitter

Wahida Clark (@WahidaClark) / Twitter

Walt Allen: ALLY – BLM, LGBTQIA+ (@WaltAllenVoice) / Twitter


Forbidden Lands
D&D / TTRPGs, Fantasy Topics, Opinion, Reviews

Forbidden Lands Tabletop RPG Review

A land torn asunder by war, famine, and corruption. Through many years of hardship, the people step from their homes to discover a new life. The once mysterious Blood Mist slowly evaporates from the earth, and demons linger throughout the mountains. This is the world of the Forbidden Lands.

A dwarf minstrel, elf fighter, goblin sorcerer, and human peddler approach a small quaint village by the river. A guard gazes lazily at them as they pass by the fortified wooden gate. These aren’t typical adventurers, they are rogues and raiders trying to make a living in a dangerous world.

Forbidden Lands is a tabletop role-playing game from Free League Publishing. It’s a twist on other popular RPG titles where the players aren’t necessarily the heroes of the campaign, but instead are simply trying to survive any way they can.

The mythos and lore of Forbidden Lands is well thought out and detailed. The gods brought their people to a new land and discovered it wasn’t as peaceful as they had hoped. Wars erupted and fighting spread throughout the world. Then a terrible mist appeared and killed everything it touched. Eventually, the mist vanished but the world was changed and portions of it still linger throughout waiting to be discovered by would-be adventures hoping to become a legend.

Legends

Speaking of legends, Legends are how the players learn about the world and its people. They are also a way for them to gain experience. Instead of a player not knowing who an NPC is, the game masters might have the characters hear about a legend from NPCs, maps, or notes they find during their adventure. Or before they encounter an area of the person, they roll a die to find out what they know.

Stronghold

Another aspect of Forbidden Lands is the Stronghold. Over time the characters will have made a name for themselves and if they live long enough, they will gain access to their own stronghold. The Forbidden Lands are dangerous and full of deadly creatures, and the characters will need a place to rest. Strongholds are a home base for characters to regroup and restock after returning from an adventure.

However, they are not always safe. The rules contain several random encounters to use when the characters are resting inside their stronghold. Peace is hard to come by in this world and that’s what makes it exciting.

Cultures and Kin

Forbidden Lands contains many cultures called Kin. They range from Human, Elf, Half-Elf, Dwarf, Halfling, Orc, Wolfkin, Goblin. Each one can then choose a profession or class if you’re used to Dungeons & Dragons. These can be Druid, Fighter, Hunter, Minstrel, Peddler, Rider, Rogue, or Sorcerer.

There are also skills and abilities based on Attributes. Your character’s physical and mental capabilities are measured in attributes. They are broken down into four categories: Strength, Agility, Wits, and Empathy.

Player Characters

Dark Secret. Akin to Dungeons & Dragons Flaws are Dark Secrets. A Dark Secret is something you did in the past that you don’t want anyone else to know about. It is one of the most valuable resources the game master can pull from when deciding future plot points for your character.

Consumables. In Forbidden Lands, keeping track of consumable items such as food, water, and arrows is an important aspect of exploring. These are tracked by a d6, d8, and d12. Once eating a ration or loosing an arrow, you roll the specific dice and if a 1 or 2 appears you lower the dice to the lower amount – d12 to d10 and so on. After rolling a 1 or 2 on a d6, you run out of whatever it is you used and have to buy more.

It’s actually an engaging way to keep track of your items. Instead of worrying about how many arrows or bolts you have in a given day, you just roll the dice to decide.

Reputation. Being recognized in the Forbidden Lands is something to keep track of as well. Whether you successfully looted an ancient crypt or angered the village leader, your name could get out and reach the ears of powerful people.

This mechanic works by having the player with the highest reputation roll a d6 when they reach a town or interact with an NPC. A 6 means you have made a name for yourself and that person or town knows you, however, if it’s good or bad is up to the deeds you have done. This also works in reverse and the players can roll d6 to determine if they’ve heard of an NPC.

It Takes a d6

Instead of relying on a d20 like D&D, Forbidden Lands can be played entirely with a d6. Weapons and gear have attributes of their own you add or subtract from skills and attacks. You roll to attack and for skills but the damage is calculated by characters four Attributes. You can also go one step further and push any roll for added success or failure.

If you fail a roll and choose to push it you add dice according to certain skills and abilities and roll again. But failing could result in an even worse result than the original roll. While success means you achieve an even cooler result and perhaps do more damage.

Verdict

Forbidden Lands is one of the most innovative and engaging TTRPGs around. It’s fast-paced and full of history. Exploring feels rewarding and interacting with NPCs and adventure sites is intriguing and exciting. The whole thing can even be played at random without any planning so both the game master and players aren’t aware of what’s going to happen. Forbidden Lands is built for storytellers and fantasy lovers who enjoy diving into the unknown and uncovering new mysteries.

Forbidden Lands is recommended for fantasy fans! It is thrilling, detailed, and full of wonderful and dreadful encounters We give it a 9 on a d10.

Clicking the image will take you to the product on Amazon

We received a free copy of Forbidden Lands in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are our own. 

Rat Queens
D&D / TTRPGs, Fantasy Topics, Opinion, Reviews

Rat Queens Volume 1 Review

We take a look at Rat Queens Volume 1 and how it relates to D&D

Rat Queens is a dark satire comic book series that plays out like a typical game of Dungeons & Dragons. From its lovable characters and its detailed world, the comic contains wit and humor blended with gritty action and an engaging plot that keeps you wanting more and more.

I won’t lie when I tell you that when I first read a Rat Queens comic – issue 16 with Critical Role – a few years ago I did not find it all that great. Jump forward to today and I am all in for what is next from the Rat Queens. It just goes to show that the more time you spend with characters or a series the more it grows on you. It’s much like character development where you have an idea at the beginning but as time goes on the character grows and changes in ways you never even thought about.

Characters

Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcerery follows the story of the adventuring party made up of Betty the rogue, Violet the fighter, Dee the cleric, and Hannah the wizard. The world is swords and sorcery and feels like a beginning D&D quest. The leading ladies are one of many protectors of the city of Palisade. They collect bounties and contracts to slay monsters and complete quests. The party is already well established in the city and the comic does a great job at letting you know everyone knows who they are and they aren’t particularly well-liked even though they get things done.

There are several other characters introduced to make the world feel more alive and it makes everything feel grander and meaningful. Even though there are a lot of characters writer Kurtis Wiebe makes each one engaging. They have a unique way of speaking and handling situations, especially the Rat Queens. They also have their own secrets and pasts that appear to play a larger part in future issues. Betty is an adorable firecracker that will cut you if you look at her or her friends the wrong way. Whereas Violet is a tough and resilient dwarven warrior that is always ready to protect her fellow party members.

In any tabletop role-playing game using backstory is one of the best ways to advance plot. The first five issues were just a prelude to the larger story at hand.

Rat Queens

Story

Speaking of story issues 1 -5 focused on setting up the characters. Wiebe understands characters and builds time to connect and establish who each one is. The writing is vivid and flows fluidly with the artwork which is equally as stunning. The first arc is one big quest to find out who is trying to kill off adventuring party members. It’s the classic tale of one quest evolving into another leading to larger threats on the horizon.

While on a contract, the Rat Queens are given a quest to clean out a cave of goblins. There is nothing more nostalgic sounding than that in a D&D game. Yet things don’t go as planned and that greater threat arrives in the form of an assassin. The challenge shifts to finding out who hired the assassins and why they are killing party members. It keeps you guessing about who it may be but excellently presents the story in a clear and concise manner.

Fight scenes are graphic but remain engaging, entertaining, witty, and full of motion without being overly and unnecessarily violent. Slower-paced moments are easy to follow and don’t drag on. Each panel contains beautiful art and conversations that advance the story and develop the characters.

Rat Queens: Volume 1 is the classic D&D tale of the beginner adventure party. The world is full of terrifying creatures and realistic characters who act like real people. There is plenty of adult language and adult situations that would make Captain America blush but nothing that doesn’t fit in with the narrative. The main Rat Queens crew is violent and often attacks first and asks questions later. Yet they’re all lovable and enjoyable throughout their quirks, mannerisms, and qualities.

Rat Queens: Volume 1 is highly recommended to fantasy and D&D fans! It is thrilling, intriguing, fast-paced, and contains a world full of engaging and realistic characters. We give it a 9 on a d10.

D&D / TTRPGs, Reviews, Video Games

Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance Review

An entertaining beat ’em up set in the world of D&D

Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance is like rolling a d20 to attack or attempt a skill in the TTRPG version of Dungeons & Dragons. You aren’t quite sure what the outcome will be before you roll but there’s that feeling of no matter what, everything you do will be fun. D&D is simply fun and Dark Alliance reflects the joy you get from sitting at a table whether digital or physical and rolling dice with friends.

The game follows the story of the Companions from R.A. Salvatore’s book series the Legend of Drizzt. Instead of creating your own character, you control either Drizzt, Bruenor, Catti-Brie, or Wulfgar. The plot involves searching for the artifact known as Crenshinibon and fighting different factions of goblinoids, duergar, and cultists as they attempt to find it first.

Story

The story isn’t the bread and butter of Dark Alliance. The writing is bland and character dialogue feels oddly placed as well. It’s tough to tell if Dark Alliance is canonical with the books as it changes a lot of what happened throughout the series. As somewhat fans of the novels, it can be difficult to connect with the story if it shifts from canon.

You don’t by any means need to have read any of the books to understand the plot as the game does well at telling its own tale. That being said, the overall plot is straightforward and simple. Fight hordes of monsters and level up your character.

Combat

As a smash and loot game, Dark Alliance is all about combat. You can either play with friends or by yourself and there are multiple difficulties to choose from. Adventuring alone at higher difficulties is challenging but rewarding. Whereas joining with other people remains challenging but introduces new ways to fight as a team. Defeating creatures and completing levels rewards you with gear and money that you can later upgrade at the shop. Loot works like a typical MMO and is scaled by color rating. There’s grey, green, blue, purple, and gold.

Unfortunately, combat doesn’t always connect. Like in D&D there are times when you will fail an attack roll but it’s all up to the dice. However, in Dark Alliance oftentimes attacks just don’t hit even when they should. It works both ways and attacks that go wide, even way wide, do end up hitting. Enemies also seem to do way more damage than necessary and can one-hit kill any character.

It’s a challenging system to work around but when it does work everything ends up being enjoyable.

Dark Alliance

Sound and Sights

The soundtrack is one of the greater parts of the game. Composed by Vibe Avenue, the OST is a perfect backdrop for any D&D game.

The sound mechanics also stand out throughout the game. For instance, Wulgar’s armor clinks and clanks when he runs and Bruenor’s heavy footfalls echo through caverns and strongholds.

Sure, the game may not have AAA graphics but it is stunning to look at nonetheless. Environments and backdrops stand out with colossal giant skeletons, sparkling caverns, and massive citadels.

Classic Dungeons & Dragons back in print! - Available now @ Dungeon Masters Guild

Verdict

Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance may not be your typical D&D game. It isn’t about building your own personal character, the combat is great when it works and bad when it doesn’t. It’s like that one d20 that has a mind all its own but just so happens to be your favorite. It rolls well occasionally and has a very low crit percentage but you just love it. It’s shiny and sparkly and you can’t help but roll it even when you know it may betray you. Dark Alliance is that d20.

We give Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance a 7 on a d10.

Reviews

Book Review – Six of Crows

Our review of fantasy novel Six of Crows by author Leigh Bardugo.


Six of Crows is a dark and gritty fantasy novel that offers a world of very little hope while also keeping you hopeful for its earnest, likeable characters. Set around a ragtag group of thieves attempting a heist that is considered impossible, it brings to mind Suicide Squad mixed with D&D in the best ways.

The fantasy world of Six of Crows is a unique one. It is not swords and sorcery and it is not urban fantasy. There are guns and there are daggers. There is magic set forward in a more scientific fashion. There is a map of the book’s own unique world that is diverse and deep and believable. There is a quite a lot of information given up front, and it can feel hard to quickly learn countries and their complex relationships as well as factions since it is never fully laid out. But the casual conversations about these places bring a nice life to them. Especially since all the characters have their own unique opinions.

Speaking of characters, Six of Crows offers a diverse group of very likeable characters each battling with their own pasts. In fact, their “secret backstories” is a major driving force of this book. The big past reveals can start to feel a bit routine since each character has their own dark secrets, but they do make you feel for each character very deeply. The book gets a bit close to the “female characters mother toxic men into good behavior” trope, but stops itself of crossing the line fully.

The writing is beautiful, lively, and keeps the plot moving forward. The descriptions are well-balanced. The fights have a good pace, although they are on the surprisingly gory side for a “teen read”. The author does a good job at pacing the plot so there are plenty of twists

The world of Six of Crows is dark and depressing. It is a world of back-stabbing, manipulation, and where hope can’t really grow. So if that is not your cup of tea, this story will weigh heavily on you. But there is humor to alleviate this weight, and each character has their own hope for a better future. Or at least a satisfyingly revenge.

All in all, Six of Crows is recommended for fantasy fans! It is fun, fast-paced, and offers a fully realized world. We give it a 9 on a d10.


Reviews, Video Games

Biomutant Review

A Vast World with a Lot to do

Biomutant Review: Biomutant is an open world RPG from THQ Nordic and Experiment 101. You play an anthropomorphic animal similar to Master Splinter from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles who comes complete with their own form of chemical mutation.

It’s sort of a blend between The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Skyrim with some of the best and worst aspects of Fallout 76 thrown in. All three mixed together create its own mutation. There’s its vast open world to explore that is nearly twice as large as Skyrim. The future dystopia feel of Fallout. And the colorful and creativeness of Breath of the Wild. It is by no means perfect but it has charm, is stunning to look at, and is just plain fun.

DriveThruRPG.com

Story

Biomutant follows the adventures of the lone Ronin, a furry critter mutated by a government chemical spill. SPOILER WARNING. There will be slight spoilers ahead. It has

The Ronin witnessed the death of both of his parents and is searching for the rodent responsible. But along with their own journey there is a second narrative that includes saving the the Tree of Life. Four massive creatures called Worldeaters threaten to kill the tree thus ending all life. It’s by no means a new concept in storytelling but it’s straightforward and sets the tone of the game.

As for the overall lore of the entire world, it can be convoluted and isn’t outright explained. You can uncover details about it along the way by reading documents on boards or solving certain puzzles. The short story is a large biochemical spill destroyed the world, mutating creatures and leaving behind contaminated zones.

The writing is also just bad. There is no sense of character emotion. While individual characters do speak everything they’re saying is long winded and feels like they’re explaining their entire life story. It doesn’t help the narrator talks over their oftentimes cute and adorable tones. Having just one voice for each character takes away any concept of individualism.

Gameplay

The first two hours of the game act as the tutorial which is just poor development. It shouldn’t take that long to get the concept of a games design or mechanics. The first weapon you do actually get to craft gets taken away from you within seconds. Then crafting doesn’t return for quite a long time. It all feels too railroaded and should be more streamlined.

Narrator. One of the biggest reasons everything is so sluggish is the narrator. Every spoken word is said by the game’s narrator and that is its largest problem. He just won’t stop talking. Even now I hear him. It is by no means David Shaw-Parker’s fault, he is just doing his job. It’s his nonstop narration that slows down gameplay and makes every character lifeless. The voice cues never line up with what characters are saying and when you think he is going to speak he waits a few beats before chiming in. This can lead to skipping dialogue but that’s not the worst part as characters tend to speak a lot of nonsense before getting to the point – if they ever do. There is a way to turn off the narration but he’ll still pipe up every during cutscene and anytime you find lore or do a puzzle.

Completing the tutorial – basically after the first boss – allows you to run about the vast world. As an open world RPG, the world should always feel open to travel around. You don’t gain that freedom for at least two hours if not more. Yet when you are finally released from your shackles, Biomutant becomes something a bit different. Something a bit brighter and better. You’re free to go anywhere, craft anything, fight monsters, and just explore. Adventuring is the most rewarding part of the game. Houses, sewars, contaminated zones, and puzzles all present options to collect resources to craft materials.

Crafting. Part of Biomutant’s charm is found in its weapon and armor crafting. There are millions of combinations including swords, shotguns, rifles, knives, and sai. It isn’t the most friendly system and understanding what you need isn’t the simplest but once you have enough gear, crafting is a well worth your time. Unfortunately, you will have to create certain weapons in order to take down bosses. Especially, if you just want to make a straight melee build like we did. There is no prompt to tell you to do this so figuring out on your own in the middle of a fight is annoying.

Clothing and your attire is also a great feature of Biomutant. You can upgrade outfits to become more powerful and dress the character in number of cool clothes including giving them a shirt, pants, hat, and a lot of accessories for their face, shoulders, and back.

Combat. When it comes to combat, it’s really hit or miss – and yes, pun intended. It isn’t the most fluid and enemy hit boxes are all over the place. The majority of the time you have to aim at a specific spot if you’re in melee and that target zone is typically the enemy’s mouth. Attacking their backside or sides won’t cut it. This leaves you open for some nasty attacks and can be aggravating if you jump all over the place to avoid being hit.

Enemies also tend to wander off on their own during combat only to come back a few seconds later with full health

There are multiple ways to build your character though so it has plenty of replayability. You can choose different psionics or mutation abilities and choose to be evil or good. It’s a system similar to Mass Effect although way more complicated and frustrating. The two other voiced characters are just as silly and annoying as the narrator.

Puzzles. Biomutant sure didn’t take cues for Resident Evil when it comes to solving puzzles. There are so many and they pop up just when you don’t want them too. It isn’t that they’re difficult but annoying and repetitive. They range from unclogging toilets to turning on breaker boxes but they’re all done in the same way. All you do is rotate knobs until a success. It’s not rocket science but it is just boring.

Sidequests. Biomutant has so many side quests. It isn’t a bad thing they are just excessive and repetitive. From fetch quests, escort quests, and puzzles you’ll be swimming in stuff to do and it can be overwhelming. Also, speaking of swimming, you can’t and there’s a lot of water.

Visuals and Sound

Exploration is what makes Biomutant worthwhile. It’s about as stunning to look at as Breath of the Wild. The scenery is epic and if you see it you can visit it. Though sometimes – like Skyrim – reaching certain places can be a chore. Although, the lighting effects are a bit overwhelming from time to time and the sun can be blinding and reflects off of everything including grass. It’s a colorful game as well. But the color tends to get washed out during cutscenes and conversations.

The sound and everything from character voices and noises to the natural environment is fantastic. Grass rustles when you run through it and you can almost feel the breeze of air and touch of rain as it interacts with the world.

Soundtrack. Biomutant’s soundtrack is good but short. With around 40 minutes of music tracks are often repeated.

Verdict

Biomutant isn’t groundbreaking nor is it completely terrible. It sits somewhere firmly in the middle and that’s okay. Combat is shaky and wonky but there are times when things connect and it all feels good. The world is epic to look at and explore and feels like what Fallout 76 should have been like when it first released. To earn a higher score, we’d love it If there was a way to skip the tutorial, get rid of the narrator, and improve combat. What it does succeed at is being fun. It’s colorful, playful, bright, and doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Rating: 1 out of 5.