Gaming

Lenovo Legion 7i review: Flagship with trade-offs

Everything is great, until some things get in your way

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After writing the hands-on for the Lenovo Legion 7i, I came to the conclusion that this device has upside. It wasn’t the most powerful configuration you could get for the device, but initially the whole thing just fits well. It was even a welcome surprise to me that the build quality is great, and has RGB!

But much like NBA prospects, one must see them in action to truly assess their worth. While my initial impressions of the device were positive, I wanted to see if this device truly stacks against the best of them. 

To recap, here’s what the Lenovo Legion 7i offers:

It comes with an Intel Core i7 processor and an NVIDIA RTX 2070 SUPER Max-Q

It has a 240Hz FHD anti-glare display with 100% Adobe sRGB

It features a full-size keyboard with RGB lighting even at the back

It comes in an all-metal finish, with the metal Legion logo

Great performance for the most part

The unit I received came with the 6-core, Intel Core i7-10750H processor and the NVIDIA RTX 2070 SUPER Max-Q. It’s not the most powerful configuration you can get for this device, but it brings a lot to the table. Performance across the board was great the more applications I threw at it.

Whether it was for work or simply gaming my heart out, the Legion 7i kept me going through and through. I still haven’t won a game of Fall Guys while testing this machine out. But in terms of its raw power, this device definitely competes with the best of them.

My only issues with the device’s performance actually isn’t with the hardware. See, Lenovo always ships its devices with Vantage installed. Obviously, this should aid in the main operations of the device and should tick the important settings during certain activities. I don’t know why Vantage doesn’t automatically switch some of these, but it gets in the way.

Gaming on it feels like a breeze… for the most part

I’ve touched on how well this thing can game, and it still met my initial impression of it. Trying out a variety of titles for this laptop felt relatively easy, as I managed to play most games properly. Even heavy titles like Call of Duty: Warzone clocked in close to 60-70 FPS at near max settings during my tests.

Also, because the unit I came with has a 240Hz refresh rate display, I almost experienced no image tearing. Gameplay felt almost buttery smooth, especially in shooter games such as VALORANT. I kept up with everything that was happening around me with such ease, it almost felt natural.

Yet again, my issues with this wasn’t with the RTX 2070 SUPER Max-Q. Rather, there were two things that I somehow couldn’t understand how they got in there. First, for some reason Vantage doesn’t automatically turn on Performance Mode. Second, even while the laptop was on Performance Mode and plugged in to the charger, I experienced some level of FPS drops.

Even though these might not be the case for you, I’d still watch out for these down the road.

Battery’s what you expect, but the thermals were off

Upon initial use, I got about 5-6 hours just doing the normal routine. Compared to most gaming laptops, this is just what you would expect even from a 80Wh battery. Strictly gaming on the device only registered 2-3 hours, which is disappointing but expected. I guess that’s your payoff for siding with Intel, instead of going for the new AMD chips.

Charging the device didn’t take too long, especially with Rapid Charge turned on. Without it, it took me about 2-3 hours for a full charge. Honestly, I feel like you will need to bring the charger at all times for prolonged play. At least, it brings you back to the action and your work.

However, the bottleneck truly lies in the device’s Vapor Chamber cooling system. Don’t get me wrong: I appreciate the fact that there are four exhaust vents for all that hot air. Ideally, it’s supposed to keep things relatively less warm than usual. But alas, the device still felt too warm to touch and the fans were super loud.

The laptop’s saving graces?

Although, the device had some other good features that I felt made the experience a little better. First was the variety of ports available on this device, and where they’re all placed. Specifically, I found it a nice touch that high-usage ports for charging and all your peripherals were at the back. It makes cable management easier, and nothing gets in the way.

I also loved the way the keyboard felt as I was typing and playing. Lenovo’s TrueStrike keys have a certain smooth feeling every time I press them. Honestly, I didn’t feel any lag input especially while gaming. Also, the privacy webcam shutter was always a nice touch.

But alas, there are some things that just didn’t sit well with me. One was the webcam itself, which only stood at 720p. The images turn out a little grainy, and you can’t really use it at night unless under well-lit conditions. Next were the bottom-facing speakers, which I honestly felt would have been better with an elevated hinge.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

At Php 134,995, the Lenovo Legion 7i fits the mold of the usual gaming laptop. You get the power and performance from all the internal hardware. Also, you get a high refresh rate display to complement and elevate your gaming experience. Along with some great additional features, it’s a solid piece of hardware.

Of course, you really can’t get past the things that are bad about it. The obvious ones include the subpar battery life and the thermals that don’t cool down effectively. For the rest, it’s all up to your personal preference and what you intend to use this laptop for.

For what it’s worth, you actually get a great gaming machine that competes with the flagships. Just be wary of what you’re trading off to get all that power.

Gaming

NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… Review

Playable Anime

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NieR Replicant

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.

NieR Replicant

“Fan Service” Kaine

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.

Multi-faceted gameplay 

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.

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Sony says it won’t shut down PS3, Vita stores

It admits shut-down was the wrong decision

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Sony PS3
Photo by Nikita Kostrykin on Unsplash

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.

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Balan Wonderworld review: A theater for young ages

Facing the reality behind the curtains

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Balan Wonderworld

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.

Balan Wonderworld

Leo in the Island of Tims

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.

Collect-a-thon Platformer

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.

Balan Wonderworld

Some of the costumes you will collect throughout the game

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.

Balan Wonderworld

One of the main boss fights in the game

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.

The happy ending in one of the early chapters of the game

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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