Last December 10, 2020, CD Projekt Red (CDPR) finally dropped its much awaited video game title for the past seven years. Set in the year 2077, this new open-world experience explores the possibilities of human existence with science at its core. Beneath all the scientific breakthroughs, an everlasting human conflict resides.
In my opinion, this is how the world of Cyberpunk 2077 seemingly positions itself as a video game. It prides itself as a sprawling open world, with a character-driven story of your own choosing. With a great deal of combat opportunities and side missions inherent to open world games, it shaped up according to the hype.
And then, I felt it’s hype go through a cycle of life and death as a game that’s just, well, good.
A promising start with every single new game
At the onset of starting a new save file, you’re given three life paths to choose from. For the majority of my playthrough, I simply went with the Street Kid since I felt it had the most to mess around with. If you’re up to it, you can also choose between the Nomad or Corpo life path, each with their own sets of storylines to unfold.
After you configure every physical aspect — yes, including the private parts — of your character named “V”, the game throws you into the action outright. It’s the usual get-a-feel-for-the-controls type of thing, which is par for the course if you ask me. From movement to combat styles, the game does its best at orienting you with how it works.
The game then proceeds to give you a rough six-hour prelude detailing events of V’s first mission with Jackie Welles. I say a rough six hours because the game already gives you a glimpse of just how open the world is to explore. You’re also introduced to a few side missions that ultimately influence the rest of your playthrough. Honestly, it’s a great start leading up to Act 1.
You shape the story, but you also don’t feel it?
After the prelude, you basically proceed however you like, which I felt wasn’t necessarily a bold thing that CDPR implemented. However, it complements the grander scheme of the open-world adventure through Night City. At this point, I thought that this would allow me to pour myself out into the lore.
But after nearly 45+ hours of gameplay, I just didn’t feel the story bringing me into its world. See, regardless of the life path you took, V goes on a quest to free himself of the engram of one Johnny Silverhand. After stealing Arasaka’s prized relic and injecting it into his brain, the character voiced by Keanu Reeves is basically seizing control of V.
For the most part, you are given choices in both dialogue and actions to help you steer the story. Much like other choice-driven storylines like in Until Dawn, there are so many ways the main story could end. Personally, I felt that the main culprit for this is the fact that side missions are integrated well into the main story at some points.
In essence, there’s no one clear way to end Cyberpunk 2077, and I just can’t seem to find myself drawn into that.
Combat and movement mechanics I can get behind
Now, I can wholeheartedly say that this game truly shines mostly due to how the gameplay mechanics worked out. This game took a whole page out of Grand Theft Auto, but added much greater incentives to keep you exploring all sorts of gameplay styles. I truly felt that the gameplay feels intricate, yet unique towards several situations.
Combat and stealth are the main attractions when you go around all of Night City. For the most part, this game gives you a ton of ways to practice combat and stealth through the side missions, which is pretty good.
Gunplay relies a little bit on crosshair placement, which you mostly see on competitive shooters. So, just be aware of where you’re aiming your gun.
Moving around the overworld feels natural, along with driving around in the vehicle of your choice. Although, if I had one gripe with this game, it’s the physics for some of your actions and vehicles. For instance, how come you’re still standing when you jump out of a moving car? Or, how come some motorcycles are a literal chore to turn while driving? Sometimes, I like some realism in my open-world, futuristic games.
Incredible amounts of bodyhacking
Other key features in this game are a much more intricate skill tree and Cyberware enhancements. As a half-human, half-cyborg, you have access to a series of skills depending on which aspect of your character you want to focus on. Most skills you earn are combat and stealth based, and how often you use them increases its efficacy.
Personally, I admire this level of intricacy with CDPR’s approach to a character skill tree. Depending on how you want to progress through the story, there are a ton of ways you can go about upgrading certain skills. Also, this game offers unique dialogue options depending on how high your skill level is.
When it comes to what I call the “bodyhacking” section, it’s also extensive. Basically, you can attach a bunch of cyberware mods to certain parts of your body to increase certain attributes. You can even apply it to your weapons and clothes, and it greatly complements the combat in certain situations. It’s honestly a lot to take in, but it doesn’t overwhelm you.
Visual spectacle? Not entirely, I suppose
As of the time I’m writing this, the game had six rounds of patches to address a ton of issues. In such a short amount of time, CDPR managed to make the PC version look a little better than how it was on launch day. However, it still doesn’t excuse the developers from those issues because, well, this game was well-hyped.
Now, I’ll admit that the visuals of this game are pretty impressive. Even when I turned a ton of graphical settings down because of my hardware, it still looks aesthetically pleasing. Honestly, I appreciate the colors and the textures a bit more during the night time segments of the game. Is that why they called the main location Night City?
But, it isn’t consistently great the longer, and the farther you get into the story. I had some gameplay plagued by textures loading later than usual, and items that just don’t show up. For instance, during combat, my weapons don’t show up when I try to draw them out — which somehow does not allow me to use them. Last-gen console players had it way worse, but at least for the PC, the visuals were great at times.
Was this really all worth seven years of waiting?
Cyberpunk 2077 had a promising start after seven years of being in total limbo. It presents itself as an open-world experience, centered around a technologically-advanced universe still plagued by human existence. With manageable combat and stealth mechanics, different life paths to explore, and an abundance of customization options, it sets you up quite nicely.
But when you play this game long enough, and through six rounds of patches to fix several bugs and visual errors, it makes you think if it was truly worth the wait. Honestly, the story doesn’t draw you in, I felt I couldn’t fully resonate with any of the characters, and the aforementioned bugs slightly ruined the experience.
This isn’t the near-perfect game everyone was hyping it up to be, especially given the seven year wait. However, it’s still great for what it offers if you had planned to get this for the PC anyway.
NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… Review
An earnest protagonist, a “tsundere” who’s also kind of there for fan service, an almost fourth-wall breaking character, and a world dealing with an underlying crisis; NieR Replicant ver. 1.222474487139 (which we’ll refer to as NieR Replicant henceforth) has all the elements of a wonderful anime. Except, it’s a game — one that goes out of its way to offer multiple types of play.
After getting through a single playthrough of NieR Replicant, I found that most of the things I said I liked in my first impressions (music, gameplay, combat, dialogue) were the ones that will endear me to the game even further.
Everything for your sister
As the protagonist, you play the role of a brother who will do just about anything and everything for your sister. The game starts off with you looking for a way to cure the mysterious illness that’s befallen your sister.
This is the main driving force of the main character. All his actions in the main storyline are all in the service of doing what’s best for his sister.
A memorable cast
Along the way you meet the rest of the main cast. This includes a magical, talking, floating book named Grimoir Weiss who serves as both a helpful ally and a backseat protagonist who never fails to point out the obvious in every situation in a way that almost feels like it’s being directed at the player.
You’ll also build a certain level of kinship with people in your town as well as key characters in every main area of the game. This includes the two other members of your party: Kaine and Emil — both of which also have interesting backstories which I will not spoil here. Just know that all these relationships and it resonates with you, the player, will determine much of what you’ll feel about the game’s story.
Dealing with loss
One thing that you will constantly encounter in the game is the feeling of dealing with loss. It already feels heavy on its own, but if I may step back a bit. Having to deal with loss in real life recently and feeling the collective grief of people in my circle also having to deal with the same just amplifies the general feeling of hopelessness and emptiness of experiencing loss.
This feeling, however prevalent in the game, is perfectly balanced by the injection of humor from Grimoir Weiss and the happy memories you have with the ones you’ve lost. Memories also play a part in key points of the story.
Shifting the tone a little bit, the overall gameplay of NieR Replicant will keep you on your toes.
It’s not just a mindless hack and slash game. There are sections where it’ll turn into a 2D platformer with some sprinkles of puzzle solving.
The level designs are fantastic. One thing that stood out to me is how the Square Enix and Toylogic very intentionally frames certain levels. Since this is, after all, a sort of remake of game that was first released in 2010, it is free from the burden of giving the player full camera control. This results in beautifully framed scenes as you play.
There’s one particular area that reminds me of the camera work on the original Resident Evil games on the PlayStation One.
Later on in the game, you’ll enter a deeper portion of that area and it will give you an entire section of the game that looks and plays like Diablo II.
These areas are all perfectly placed in different sections of the game that certainly adds to the overall pacing. It can feel draggy, especially when you’re doing side quests, but having levels and areas like this make it all better. Oh and yeah, take some time to do side quests, it’ll help with getting gold (the game’s currency), some useful items, and immerse you further in the game’s world.
Here’s a quick look at the combat in the early part of the game.
The music is just… *chef’s kiss
I’ve already talked about this at length in my first impressions. But even then, it would be a disservice to not mention it here again. The music in this game is just my cup of tea.
It’s the kind of music that really transports you into the game world. If you’ve ever had fantasies of being whisked away to a different reality, the music in this game is what you would imagine to be playing.
It perfectly evokes the proper mood in every area of the game. The main village gives off this “going on an epic adventure” vibe, the area filled with robots sound robotic, and the aforementioned Resident Evil-like area fills you with horror. You can even say it almost foreshadows the fate of some levels and locations. That’s how good the music in this game is.
You can listen to the 2010 versions of the music here. Bear in mind that most of these were re-done/re-recorded for NieR Replicant ver. 1.222474487139.
Should you play NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… ?
Anyone who’s into narrative-driven games should give NieR Replicant a whirl. That’s also especially true if you’re an anime fan. It will feel familiar because of certain tropes, some fan service, and a time skip.
It’s a fantastic entry point into the whole NieR franchise. It will get you curious about the NieR world at large and will certainly make you want to explore or replay the 2017 hit game NieR:Automata. But of course, not before you give NieR Replicant ver. 1.22474487139… all the playthroughs it deserves.
NieR Replicant ver. 1.22474487139… is available April 23 on PS4, Xbox One, and PC on Steam.
Sony says it won’t shut down PS3, Vita stores
It admits shut-down was the wrong decision
At the end of March, Sony had announced that it’d be shutting down PS3, Vita, and PSP game stores. This meant that users wouldn’t be able to purchase new games and media content through those consoles. It has decided to backtrack on its decision now.
For the foreseeable future, Sony PlayStation will continue to support the purchase of classic games on PS3 and PS Vita. The PSP will still retire on July 2, 2021.
“It’s clear we made the wrong decision here,” Sony Interactive Entertainment President and CEO Jim Ryan wrote on the PlayStation Blog. He sighted commerce support challenges as a leading cause behind the decision to shutter the store. Sony also intended to focus on new-gen products like the PlayStation 4 and 5.
Though the decision received widespread criticism, and the community was fuming. Many games use PlayStation Now to play PlayStation 3 or Vita compatible titles on the newer consoles. Closing down the online store would’ve dealt a huge blow to existing users.
“We see now that many of you are incredibly passionate about being able to continue purchasing classic games on PS3 and PS Vita for the foreseeable future, so I’m glad we were able to find a solution to continue operations,” Ryan added.
Before the company’s reversal, VGC reported that more than 2,000 digital-only games were at risk of being lost forever. The PSP won’t be getting a life extension, and online services will be closing down as planned.
Balan Wonderworld review: A theater for young ages
Facing the reality behind the curtains
Have you ever had those moments in your younger years that hurt you a ton? Have they also happened as you got older and a bit wiser? Such is life on our own planet Earth: full of ups and downs. With each moment, we learn new things about ourselves and from our own shortcomings to become better people. However, there are times when things get too overwhelming.
We all need an escape, no matter how young or old we might be. For the older ones, it’s having some time alone, watching movies or TV shows. With the younger generation, it’s playing video games or window shopping online. For our good friends Leo or Emma, their daring escape from their problems led them to the mysterious world of Balan Wonderworld.
I decided to give this game a shot, seeing as it’s one of those less-hyped titles from Square Enix. I want to know what it could offer to a semi-casual player like myself when I need stress relief. Also, Square Enix loves to draw you in with some lore in between to keep you hooked from start to end.
So, what exactly is happening here?
Balan Wonderworld starts off with a story that provides little context to the main characters. Essentially, you play as either Leo or Emma, two children experiencing some personal troubles. I decided to play as Leo mostly because his opening cutscene was him dancing on the street, which is quite relatable. Apparently, in Leo’s case, a group of equally skilled dancers took notice, but he just shunned them away for unexplainable reasons.
Eventually, he and Emma find themselves in this mysterious theater guarded by Balan, a magician-like figure. According to the game’s lore, the theater only shows up to those who are experiencing troubles in their lives. I guess you could consider Leo/Emma extremely lucky, but they’re also confused as to why they’re in the theater. A few moments later, they find themselves in a magical world behind the theater — essentially pulling a Narnia on you.
You may be wondering how all of this just happened, and I’m here to tell you that I have no idea. In its early stages, the game doesn’t explain to you a lot of details in hopes of putting the pieces of the story together. As I progressed through the story later on, I’m still trying to understand how these things happened. Not the kind of start I was expecting.
The simplest gameplay mechanic for Square Enix
After the intro cutscene, you find yourself on the Island of Tims, which is pretty empty to start. It’s mostly just grassland with some flowers, lakes, and bridges. Eventually, you will slowly rebuild the Tims Tower, which doesn’t seem that important initially. Part of the rebuild involves the inhabitants of the island: the Tims which aids you for the main completion quest.
Now, this platforming game features twelve Chapters, each with two levels and a boss fight. In all the levels, you only ever need to press one button to get through the entire game: the X button. See, every other button and trigger on your controller allows you to jump and platform around — something the X button does anyway. However, the X button is this game’s primary action button because of another gameplay mechanic.
In each level, Leo/Emma will collect a set of costumes that grant them special abilities. From jump attacks to increased air time, these costumes allow you to explore the game’s vast stages to look for collectibles for completion. As mentioned earlier, almost all of the abilities are bound to the X button — something you don’t really see with Square Enix’s other prominent titles.
Apart from the costumes, you will also collect Drops, Tim Eggs and Balan Statues in each stage. Collecting Drops allows you to grow your Tims to grant you boosts when playing every stage. Meanwhile, collecting a certain number of Balan Statues opens the next set of Chapters and worlds to explore.
As somebody who is fond of stage-by-stage platforming, this was pretty standard stuff even in an open-world setting. Personally, I found myself getting side-tracked with all the collectibles if I wanted to progress further into the game. However, it also makes the game roughly easy to breeze by when you’re not out to complete it. In essence, I felt it doesn’t motivate you enough to complete it 100 percent.
Uncovering your troubles and rising above them
Let’s tackle what I think is the main reason why you found yourself platforming in Balan’s magical world. I mentioned earlier that the character you control is going through some personal issues, and that the magical world showed up for them because of it. With each Chapter, Leo/Emma encounters people who also have undergone some life problems, as well.
Before each boss fight, a cutscene introduces you to the main story of each person you encounter in the Chapter’s stages. Essentially, it highlights the following aspects: how they started, the rise, and the fall (and eventual shift to the dark side). You are basically tasked to free these people from the Negati, a demon-like presence that is the manifestation of their troubles.
After beating each boss, another cutscene starts that shows an epilogue of sorts, detailing the events that happened after you free people of the Negati. You see people get back on their feet, or become more open to other people about their interests. Also, each ending cutscene starts off with a performance with the AI versions of the costumes you collect. I found it quite cheesy and a little extra in some instances.
A game that doesn’t explain much when it should
Everything about Balan Wonderworld made me ask myself, “why is this all happening?” To be honest, I felt that nothing about the game was explained properly the moment you start playing. From the simplistic gameplay mechanic to the storylines in each chapter, it all feels like it lacks purpose. Furthermore, even your role in lifting these people up from their troubles isn’t explained properly.
While playing through this game, I got the feeling that this was intended for kids even if some of the issues tackled here applied to adults. In its raw gameplay alone, it’s simple to understand and easy to navigate that even five year olds will get through the mechanics easily. The collect-a-thon element only somewhat adds a level of depth to the overall gameplay.
Gameplay mechanics aside, the entire story behind Balan Wonderworld just happens with little to no context or purpose. You aimlessly go into each Chapter, uncover the story behind each character, beat the demon inside them, and they’re freed of the negativity inside them. If you’re a child playing this game, it’s something that you’ll enjoy. As an adult, however, it doesn’t do much to draw you in for long.
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