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Trophies have a Tale to Tell

The PlayStation 4 does a lot of things and among them is a fantastic little feature that shows a trophy’s rarity based on the percentage of people who have unlocked it.

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PSN Trophies

The PlayStation 4 does a lot of things and among them is a fantastic little feature that shows a trophy’s rarity based on the percentage of people who have unlocked it.

Interestingly, it shows the statistics for trophies of PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita games as well. And should you happen to read between the lines this trophy data can lend an insight into gaming patterns, tendencies and habits. It can also show how certain games discourage or promote progress, how players might hit roadblocks at certain junctures and how successive games in a series evolve. Interestingly, it can also reveal the state of used games sales. Below are some of these inferences based on the trophy data that players like you and I help construct.

The data taken from the PlayStation Network is from systems that have synced their trophies online. Given how day-one patches and bug fixes are the norm, the data can be considered to be largely representative. However, the information referred to in this article is subject to change as more people play these games over time.

Spoilers ahead

Contains minor plot and character spoilers for Dragon Age: Origins & Inquisition, Mass Effect trilogy, Wolfenstein: The New Order, Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, Dark Souls 2, The Evil Within and Batman: Arkham City.

Romance and Perseverance

My attention was swayed in the direction of ‘Trophy Study’ when I discovered that only 15% of the people who played Dragon Age: Inquisition on the PlayStation 4 were able to pursue a romance. This is among the bigger motivations for me in a Bioware game so I was surprised by the small percentage of players who had unlocked the trophy, Beloved and Precious.

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I was able to pursue a romantic interest after I entered Skyhold. This led me to believe that a player cannot woo someone until they reach Skyhold because that’s when most of the companions begin to trust the Inquisitor – giving Inner Circle missions, asking favours and revealing secrets. It’s in Skyhold that the inquisition begins to find its true form.

I looked at the story-based trophies pre and post-Skyhold to understand how people approached the game. This helped me unearth a plausible reason for such a small percentage of love-finders: the perils of being distracted in open-world games.

A quick look at the trophies that are earned for completing the main story threads, would suggest a distinctive pattern in the way people play Dragon Age: Inquisition. Over 88% of the players finished the prologue, The Wrath of The Heaven. Immediately after you gain access to the first open area, the Hinterlands. It’s an expanse of lush wilderness marred with evil and is teeming with side-quests. These range from closing rifts, to killings wolves, finding medicine, escorting a Druffalo and what have you. Maybe that’s the reason why the percentage of players who did the second main story thread (which requires leaving the Hinterlands) almost halved (45% , Opposition in All Things).

The players who crossed this threshold also conquered the third story thread (44% players, In Your Heart Shall Burn) which follows immediately after the second. After which the inquisition makes its way to Skyhold. So essentially, fewer than 50% of the players made it to Skyhold.

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My first time in Skyhold saw me roaming the castle for upwards of four hours in order to know the place, discover the points of interest and find where the companions were housed. How do you seek to romance someone when you don’t even know where they are? Having clocked in over 95 hours I still have doubts about which door leads off Cullen’s office. Given how the game is laid out after Skyhold it is no surprise that the number of players that completed the next story thread (Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts) dropped to just a little over 23% .

There can be two possibilities for this. Either players were busy tacking the various optional areas that become accessible post-Skyhold like Emprise du Lion, the Western Approach or Emerald Graves. Or maybe this part of the game, the scope of Skyhold and the subsequent War Table shenanigans became too over-bearing for some and they gave the game a rest.

I looked at some PlayStation 3 era Bioware titles to assess what percentage of players ‘scored’ in those games and how Bioware previously tackled romance in comparison to their more complex take in Inquisition.

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Dragon Age: Origins had trophies for experiencing “the thrill of romance” with certain companions rather than a single general trophy. Unsurprisingly Morrigan was the most popular character at 23.8% , followed by Leliana at 11.8% , then Zevran with 10.1% and lastly Alistair at 8.7% . Maybe he was playing hard-to-get.

A higher number of players seemed to have succeeded in Origins compared to Inquisition (even if we consider the overlap of multiple romances on multiple play-throughs, the combined percentage must still be higher than Inquisition’s 15% ).

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For a long time romance in Bioware games has involved little more than sweet talk and a token mission as proof of affection. In the Mass Effect series the correct dialog options and basic loyalty missions sealed the deal. Over time it’s becoming a multi-step, faith building process, with much more detail and thought going into each individual affair and its impact on the main-story thread. In Dragon Age: Inquisition potential companions have class and gender preferences. A certain female elf would straight-out reject any male inquisitor for instance, or better – romance with a Tevinter mage could largely be viewed threatening to the ‘cause’ by fellow party and even non-party members. Bioware is making romance in their games much more experimental and perhaps more akin to real life.

Valiant Heart

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One of the most important in-game decisions I made in 2014 was in Wolfenstein: The New Order when I saved Fergus and let Wyatt die. I don’t know what it was that made me choose Fergus but I am glad I did. Making this choice lets you meet Tekla, an NPC that only becomes part of your game should you save Fergus. The majority of other players’ choices coincided with my own, with 62.9% saving Fergus, while 41.2% saved Wyatt (the excess of 100% is perhaps due to multiple play-throughs). I too am a contributor to that excess of 100% as I went ahead and saved Wyatt on a second play in order to see who replaces Tekla. Let’s just say, you must save Fergus if you haven’t played the game yet.

Would You Kindly, Finish this Game

The evolution of how games are ‘made’ can be judged by playing them and their sequels, but the evolution of how games are ‘played’ can also be judged by using trophy data. With an endless number of games to play, players rarely finish every game they start. This raises the importance of knowing how players approach a game, what their experience with a game is punctuated by and when do they stop playing, when does a game lose most players. The number of players actually finishing a game or reaching a certain milestone is information that can evolve the way the next entry in a franchise is made.

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Take for instance, Demons Souls, the most challenging of all the games in the Souls series. A look at its trophy data suggests that while 61% of the players defeated the first boss in the game, Demon Phalanx, only 18.9% of them completed the game by Putting the Old One to sleep and Uniting the World. This says something really interesting about the game. It is tough as nails, sure, but reaching the first boss is not an easy feat in itself, so what propelled the 61% of players to kill the first boss and not continue with the game.  The number of players who progress over the course of the game diminish boss after boss.

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Being the first game in the Souls series, it was the most experimental of the three, a Japanese import heralded as the next big thing and thus maybe it piqued the interest of a larger audience, unaware of the what lay beyond the Nexus. Maybe a lot of players (myself included) were just caught in the hype and took the plunge. As the series progressed it changed directors and settings but not the challenge. And so people were not experimenting anymore and only the dedicated were picking up Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2. While 42.9% of Dark Souls 2 players on PlayStation 3 saw the ending (as compared to Demon’s Souls‘ 18.9% ), upwards of 35% of Dark Souls players reached the game’s finale.

These number can also mean that the sequels were being made more approachable as they progressed. I know from experience that Demons Souls is the toughest of the three.

What blows my mind is that there are still people buying Dark Souls games without really playing them. Maybe it’s just in their backlog or maybe they just put in the disc in, loaded the game but were too scared to hit start. This is evidenced by the fact that out of the total people who have Dark Souls only 95.6% have lit the first bonfire which is among the very first things you do in the game.

Similarly only 93.7% of Dark Souls 2 players have unlocked the trophy, This is Dark Souls, which is awarded for dying for the first time. Its nigh impossible for people to not die in Souls games so maybe the remaining 6.3% didn’t hit start.

What’s sad is that only 61.2% people gave clothes to Rosabeth. Poor girl.

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Another excellent game that deserved more attention was The Evil Within. Yet another victim of above average difficulty and flawed execution. Mikami’s westernized return-to-form was nothing if not polarizing. Trophy data suggests the buyers of the game didn’t enjoy it too much.

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Trophies in The Evil Within are awarded for dispatching major bosses across levels. In December 2014 the percentage of players who had slain the first boss (in Chapter 3) was a little over 55% and this number dropped to 43.5% for the second boss and 38.4% on the third. This trend seemed to continue resulting in 15.5% of the total player based finishing the game by defeating the final boss. A shame as the game is fresh and challenging, if a little unclean and unwieldy.

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Another game in this category – which I have a love-hate relationship with – is Spelunky. Although it’s challenging and petty in its rewards the game is by no means unfair. Nevertheless, a meager 15.8% players cleared the Mines and reached the Jungle, just 7.2% cleared the Jungle and reached the Ice Caves. And only 4.7% cleared the Ice Mines and reached the Temple. A possible reason why this percentage maybe so low is probably because, given how Spelunky had been free on PlayStation Plus in the month of October 2014, a bunch of subscribers downloaded the game but barely played it.

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Class and Character

Trophies also give insight about what classes are the most popular choices. In Lords of the Fallen, most people finished the game as a warrior, 9.1% , while over 3.7% for each rogue and cleric. Although it does not affect the physical combat too much in Lords, class does determine the powers you have access to: strength, healing or stealth-based.

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On the other hand, the only way to compare the choice of class in Destiny is through the trophies awarded for fully upgrading a subclass of your choice. This happens very late in the game, maybe after one hits the 30 hour mark, and is most likely attained by only the most dedicated of players.

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Nevertheless the differences in class choice was not high in Destiny: as 14.2% players fully upgraded a Warlock subclass, whereas 13.9% did it as a Hunter and 12.4% as a Titan. This also shows how less than half of the total players fully upgraded a subclass. Even if we assume that all players upgraded only one character class – which Is naïve yet convenient for generalisation – we can infer than less than half (14.2 + 13.9 + 12.4 = 40.5 % ) of all Destiny players reached the final stages of subclass mastery.

True trophy hunters are a rare breed, and thankfully a masochistic minority because I cannot imagine anyone even contemplating doing the Destiny raid without anyone on their fire-team dying. Alas this world and its people confound me immensely, just like those 0.1% of the Destiny players who did just that and unlocked the trophy Flawless Raiders. True raiders I tell you, true raiders.

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Karma is a Switch

One would assume that people today are more evil than good, thanks in part to the internets.

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But inFamous Second Son begs to differ, as 49.3% players finished the story with Good Karma while 27.1% of them finished with Evil Karma. Since 8.7% of the players Platinumed the game, there must be some over-lapping but the divide in the two choices is wide enough to denote a trend.

InFamous 2 argues there are more good people in 2014 than back in 2011. 38.4% players unlocked the good ending while 23.1% finished with the evil ending. The original inFamous marks the darkest period of humanity with only 23.6% players beating the game as a Hero, while 15.5% beating it while Infamous (evil). This makes me hopeful for 2015 and beyond!

Furthermore, the number of players who finished inFamous Second Son is much higher than for its predecessors.  Perhaps this is because inFamous games have garnered a reputation for being games with easy Platinum trophies.

Used Games a-Go-Go

Trophy data can also disclose some insight into the second-hand video game trade. If you recall, anyone who bought Batman: Arkham City new received a code in the box for playing the game as Catwoman. You could roam the sandbox as her, collecting her cleverly tweaked Riddler trophies or play missions specific to her theft storyline. It was a rather clever take on Day One DLC, an irresistible value proposition with a significant gameplay consequence. But how many people actually bought the game new?

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For the uninitiated, if you have the Catwoman DLC installed the game starts with one of her missions. You control her as the game commences and do a couple of her missions first. Soon you unlock the trophy, Arkham City Sirens which 43.9% of the PlayStation players did. Essentially you couldn’t get control of Batman until you attain this trophy which is confounding because of all the Arkham City players on PlayStation 93.5% of them have unlocked the “I’m Batman” trophy which is the inaugural trophy received when playing as Batman.

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If we turn to the trophy for finishing the entire campaign, Exit Stage Right, a higher percentage of players have attained that trophy than the percentage of players who have finished the Catwoman DLC’s first mission (the very first mission of the entire game). Technically that is impossible if not for used game sales. That is not only sad but also a pity as the Catwoman aspects of the game were a tour de force.

These are just some of the tidbits that trophies can reveal. I apologise for leaving out Xbox Achievements as I am sure they have their own stories to tell. Here’s to more thought going into not only how games are ‘made’ but also how they are ‘played’.

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Features

Is the Resident Evil 3 remake worth playing?

Resident Evil 3 is the latest game from Capcom to get an RE Engine remake. How does it compare to the original, and does it top last year’s acclaimed RE2?

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Resident Evil 3 remake
Capcom / Thumbsticks

Resident Evil 3 is the latest survival horror game from Capcom to get a top-to-bottom RE Engine remake. How does it compare to the original, and does it top last year’s acclaimed RE2 remake? Here’s what reviewers are saying.

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis was reviewed positively on its 1999 release, but a consensus grew over time that it was too short and too action-oriented. Naturally enough, it appears the same critique applies to the remake. Most reviewers agree that it’s a handsome and thrilling game, but the underlying experience isn’t as refined as Resident Evil 2. There’s certainly a wider variance of opinion this time around.

The package is fleshed out with an intriguing asynchronous multiplayer mode called Resident Evil: Resistance. First impressions are promising, but the jury is still out on its merits due to some technical issues and a lack of pre-release players.

Here is our pick of the game’s main campaign reviews.

Resident Evil 3 remake review round-up

Kotaku

Resident Evil 3 is a better modernization than last year’s fantastic Resident Evil 2 remake. Where that game was still puzzling out a change in format and occasionally struggled to forge an identity, Resident Evil 3 proceeds with wonderful confidence. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but Resident Evil 3 knows what it wants to be.”

Not scored – Review by Heather Alexandra

USGamer

Resident Evil 3 finally repositions its place as not just a true sequel to Resident Evil 2, but as a bridge to Resident Evil 4, both in action and plot. While it streamlines the formula of Resident Evil 2 into something more linear, it’s still the best way to dodge through Raccoon City with Jill and Carlos, even with Nemesis always on your tail and the occasional clunkiness here and there.”

3.5/5 – Review by Caty McCarthy

GameSpot

“As a remake, Resident Evil 3 not only falls short of honoring its source, but it also doesn’t quite stick the landing as a standalone horror experience. Even without taking into account the original game, or its predecessor, RE3 struggles to keep up with its pace amid a clashing of elements from survival horror and standard action.”

6/10 – Review by Alessandro Fillari

Polygon

“There’s no doubt that the things that made the Resident Evil 2 remake great are present in Resident Evil 3. Capcom’s latest remake is a beautiful game, bearing the same sharp design and streamlining of last year’s game. But much of it feels like a lesser repeat of what was so impressive in Resident Evil 2.”

Not scored – Review by Michael McWhertor

TechRadar

“Resident Evil 3 has rightfully earned its place as one of the best horror games on the market. While Resident Evil 2 Remake may be seen as the golden child, the Resident Evil 3 remake is faster-paced, more action-packed, graphically superior, and forces you to face your fears head-on – whether you want to or not.”

4.5/5 – Review by Vic Hood

PC Gamer

“Resident Evil is best when you’re lost in a complex, labyrinthine space, forced to make a mental map as you play, unlocking more of the sprawl by solving puzzles and finding keys. But Resident Evil 3 has none of this, and is actually stiflingly linear. You’re frequently funnelled down a prescribed path to the next cutscene, and it doesn’t help that the story is lean to the point of nonexistence, with one-dimensional characters and a narrative through-line so flimsy I kept forgetting what I was doing or why.”

58/100 – Review by Andy Kelly

Eurogamer

“Downtown Raccoon City is, unfortunately, not the expansive, multi-layered stalk-fest I’d hoped it would be. There are no alternate endings to chase, no story-altering choices to make, no new game plus mode. The source material is – and I think this is the perceived wisdom – simply not as good as the original Resident Evil 2. But I can’t shake the feeling the Resident Evil 3 remake was rushed – as its original was. Now that’s an unfortunate parallel.”

Not scoredReview by Wesley Yin-Poole


Title: Resident Evil 3
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Release date: April 3, 2020
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One


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Features

Is Half-Life: Alyx worth playing?

After a 13-year gap, Valve return to City 17 and the battle against the Combine in the new action-adventure VR game, Half-Life: Alyx. Here’s our review round-up.

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Half-Life 2: Alyx - Review roundup
Valve

After a 13-year gap, Valve return to City 17 and the battle against the Combine in the new action-adventure VR game, Half-Life: Alyx. Here’s our review round-up.

When Half-Life: Alyx was announced, there was an expectation that Valve would create a landmark in virtual reality gaming. That expectation ignores the progress achieved by many other developers in recent years, but the prospect of a return to City 17 was long-awaited and eagerly-anticipated.

In the event, Half-Life: Alyx isn’t quite as groundbreaking as its predecessors, but it does present a refined, polished AAA VR experience.

Half-Life: Alyx has received praise across the board. The game’s narrative, puzzle-centric gameplay, and stomach-churning Headcrab encounters are all highlights. After a long wait, it appears that the Valve people love is back. Here’s our pick of the game’s best reviews.

Half-Life: Alyx review round-up

Kotaku

“Half-Life is a different beast in VR. It is more stressful and intense than its non-VR predecessors. It can be downright exhausting—sometimes for extremely laudable reasons and other times for deeply frustrating ones. Alyx reveals what VR games can be, but perhaps also what they should try to avoid for fear of overwhelming or frustrating players.”

No score – Review by Nathan Grayson

USGamer

“If Half-Life: Alyx is a success, I think there’ll also be a strong argument for more Half-Life needing to stick with VR moving forward. This game will reach a limited audience at launch, surely. There are some limitations in scope that may rankle, such as a small set of (upgradable!) weapons. Some people may dislike it purely because they don’t like VR. But having played through Half-Life and Half-Life 2 numerous times, along with some of the best FPS campaigns released in their wake (Titanfall 2, 2016’s Doom, Halo: Reach), I think that Half-Life: Alyx stands as proof that Half-Life’s continued evolution can’t look like those of other shooter series.”

4.5/5 – Review by Matthew Olson

Eurogamer

“The controls are as clear-headed as the narrative. Playing room-scale or simply standing with a more confined space, you can choose one of four movement options, two of which work brilliantly as teleport jobs while the other two offer continuous movement guided by either the hand or the head and seemed to me pretty clumsy and nausea-inducing. Whatever movement you choose, one hand generally holds a weapon or gadget – switching them is as easy as pressing a button and waving your arm up and down – while the other is always free for interacting with the environment, opening doors, grabbing ammo clips from your backpack and ramming them home, priming grenades before lobbing them.”

RecommendedReview by Christian Donlan

Polygon

“(But) Half-Life is back, and Valve has finally released another AAA single-player game, something many of us doubted the company ever would, or even could, do again. The impossible has already been achieved, and the fact that it’s happening in VR only makes it more novel. Valve has succeeded at just about every goal it must have had for this project. The only thing left is whether hardcore fans will be willing to buy, and use, a virtual reality headset in order to learn what happens next in the world of Half-Life.”

RecommendedReview by Ben Kuchera

IGN

“Back when VR first became a real thing and we all started spitballing which game worlds we’d most like to be fully immersed in, Half-Life topped my list (tied with BioShock). It took a few years, but Half-Life: Alyx has more than realized that potential. With it, Valve has set a new bar for VR in interactivity, detail, and level design, showing what can happen when a world-class developer goes all-in on the new frontier of technology.”

10/10 – Review by Dan Stapleton

RockPaperShotgun

“For better and worse, HL: Alyx feels at times like a beat-by-beat recreation of Half-Life 2, with that Vault taking the place of the Citadel. More excitingly, and perhaps more surprisingly, many of the game’s best elements feel like they’re drawn from the original Half-Life. Half-Life 1 was much more of a horror game than its sequel, trapping you inside the B-movie nightmare of a research facility overrun by monsters from another dimension, and eventually sending you to that dimension, Xen.”

Not scored – Review by Graham Smith

The Verge

“While it’s about as long as the landmark Half-Life 2, with my game clocking in at 15 hours, it doesn’t feel as big or as narratively and mechanically fresh. It advances the series’s main plot, but it doesn’t come close to resolving it.

But if you keep these admittedly big reservations in mind, Alyx is a worthy addition to the Half-Life universe. It’s not just a good VR game; it’s a good video game, period.”

Not scored – Review by Adi Robertson

UploadVR

“If you’re prepared to pantomime, Alyx holds some of the most active and immersive combat you can experience in VR. In its tougher battles I’d find myself huddled on the floor, opening car doors to fire through the gaps in driver seats, instinctively flinching at the hammer of gunfire above and then poking out remaining shards in a shattered window to access a stray ammo clip with the flick of my Gravity Gloves before fumbling a hasty reload.”

5/5Review by James Feltham

Other publications

  • Gamespot – 9/10
  • GamesRadar – 4.5/5
  • Shacknews – 9/10
  • VGC – 5/5

Title: Half-Life: Alyx
Developer: Valve
Publisher: Valve
Release date: March 23, 2020
Platform: Windows


Visit the Thumbsticks new releases page for more on this week’s new video games.

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Features

Is Animal Crossing: New Horizons worth playing?

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the season’s big Nintendo Switch exclusive. Is it worth playing? Here’s our review roundup.

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Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Nintendo

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the season’s big Nintendo Switch exclusive. Does it offer the respite from the real world many of us are seeking right now? Is it worth playing? Here’s our review roundup.

The timeliness of this week’s two big video game releases has provoked much conversation. Each game offers some small solace from the world outside but in uniquely different ways. At one end of the scale, Doom Eternal lets players vent their frustrations in a (mostly) satisfying parade of things to shoot. At the other, Animal Crossing: New Horizons offers an escape. A chance to isolate on a deserted island that can be grown into a community of (mostly) happy villagers.

Nintendo’s latest Switch exclusive evolves on its predecessors in small but significant ways. New crafting and terraforming mechanics allow the experience to be even more personal than usual. The extra power of the Switch makes this the most beautiful game in the series yet. And Nintendo’s commitment to supporting the game through future events means it should be a reassuringly lengthy escape from reality.

The critical response to Animal Crossing: New Horizons is nearly unanimous in praise. Here is our pick of the game’s best reviews.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons review round-up

Eurogamer

“Is this a gritty reboot for Animal Crossing? As unpalatable as that might sound, it kind of is – and it definitely works. There’s a more grounded logic at play here, to those first few weeks at least. Your first pieces of furniture will likely be made from naked wood chopped from the very trees around you (though rest assured you’ll soon enough get the option to lend them a lick of paint or apply a fresh design with a customisation kit – another new feature for New Horizons). Elsewhere there’s a stronger throughline thoughtfully imposed on a game whose aimlessness has always been one of its biggest strengths, and once you’ve flipped your first few houses and invited a couple of animals to stay the sense of ownership over your surroundings is unparalleled in the series.”

Essential – Review by Martin Robinson

Ars Technica

AC:NH‘s first great success is in threading the needle between that classic mantra of patience and giving addicted players more to do when they want (without charging them more money). Like in prior installments, the game starts with players moving into a sparsely populated village—in this case, a remote island—and being informally tasked with helping the village develop. That impetus is doubly emphasized by AC:NH‘s island gimmick because your new home is billed as a getaway to an uninhabited island.”

Not scored – Review by Sam Machkovech

Nintendo Life

“In all seriousness, the presentation in every sense here is all but flawless. It’s one of the prettiest games on the Switch, so when you couple that with atmospheric lighting, a crisp 1080p docked resolution running at 30fps, sound design that hangs like honey in our ears, and undoubtedly the finest museum in video game history, this is nothing short of an audio-visual dream. Handheld play unsurprisingly feels extremely natural given the series’ history, but docked is where you’ll get to see the shiniest of the pretty things in the quality most deserving.”

10/10 – Review by Alex Olney

IGN

“The Legend of Zelda, Pokemon, and Super Mario each found new life on the Nintendo Switch, and following those games in kind is Animal Crossing: New Horizons: An expanded, polished, next-generation reboot of a classic Nintendo game. Perhaps most importantly, like Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is full of surprises. I cannot wait to see what’s to come: Seeing cool custom islands from the community, special events, season changes.”

9/10 – Review by Samuel Claiborn

GamesRadar

“This is an Animal Crossing game through and through, and although that comes with some time-based frustrations, that urge to just spend ‘five more minutes’ on your island deepens with every passing day. As your island evolves and starts to drip-feed fresh things to discover and see, you’ll have the urge to check up on your toe bean-boasting critters on a daily basis more than ever before. Animal Crossing: New Horizons has perfected the gameplay loop the series is famed for, and somehow manages to keep its steady pace relevant in a world where there are plenty of genre rivals.”

4.5/5 – Review by Sam Loveridge

Vice

New Horizons is asking you to create a society from scratch, to build a community out of a deserted island, but making a community isn’t dependent on how many trees you cut or weeds you pull. Community in New Horizons is built in the same ways it is built in the real world: by talking to your neighbors, and listening to them in return.”

Not scored – Review by Gita Jackson

Polygon

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a respite from the current state of the world. I find my general anxiety slowly subside as I run through my town, water my plants, and build furniture for the sassy chicken gentleman living down by the beach. It’s exactly what I need right now.

There are moments when I look up from a long session and realize that I’ve been ignoring everything around me. Then I take a look around at what actually is going on around me, and realize that maybe I’d better stay in my island paradise for a little while longer”

Recommended – Review by Russ Frushtick

Other publications

  • Destructoid – 8.5/10
  • Game Informer – 9/10
  • GameSpot – 8/10
  • Videogamer – 9/10
  • USGamer – 4.5/5

Title: Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Release date: March 20, 2020
Platform: Nintendo Switch


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Is Nioh 2 worth playing?

Team Ninja’s Nioh 2 is another deadly slice of action RPG adventure for the PlayStation 4, but does the game improve on the acclaimed original?

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Nioh 2
Team Ninja

Team Ninja’s Nioh 2 is another deadly slice of action RPG adventure for the PlayStation 4, but does the game improve on the acclaimed original?

Nioh 2 continues Team Ninja’s strong run with another rough diamond of a game. Its combat is universally acclaimed, requiring finesse, expertise, and resilience. The Dark Souls comparisons loom large, of course, but, like its predecessor, Nioh 2 manages to carve out a distinct identity.

Many critics also agree on the game’s flaws, believing that Team Ninja has perhaps added too much content into the mix. A plethora of gruelling side missions, and some less than memorable locations, take the shine off an otherwise top-notch action experience.

Here is our pick of the game’s best reviews.

Nioh 2 review round-up

GameRadar

Nioh 2 very much doubles down on the vision of the first game. It tells another story of feudal Japanese warlords, samurai and demons. It again sticks close to From’s Dark Souls structure, with added loot and frenetic combat that recalls Team Ninja’s own classic Ninja Gaiden series. And it’s still huge, with long, meandering main missions bolstered by optional sub-missions that often reuse parts of the same maps.”

4.5 – Review by Jon Bailes

Polygon

Nioh 2 is Ninja Gaiden mixed with Dark Souls and Sekiro and drowned in an ocean of complexity. Every enemy is a threat, if I’m anything less than deliberate. I don’t feel skilled when I succeed. I feel smart. And I guess I like feeling smart.”

Not scored – Review by Dave Tach

GameSpot

Nioh 2‘s definitive feature is its challenge. With core mechanics refined from the bones of Dark Souls, Nioh 2 boils down to a series of battles and duels in all kinds of situations. These battles demand intense precision: Not only are your attacks and skills limited by a stamina meter–called Ki–but any extra attack or mistimed movement will leave you exposed, often to an attack that will cost you a substantial amount of health. Like other Souls-like games, there is a painful pleasure in mastering whatever opponents the game throws your way.”

8/10 – Review by Mike Epstein

Kotaku

Nioh 2 has some glaring flaws in spite of the fantastic combat and challenging encounters. Chief among them is level design that turns most of the game into a blurry slog. The Sengoku period is packed with battles and sieges, but Nioh 2 delays on embracing a more magical presentation until the latter half of the game. As a result, there are strings of levels that are either muddy battlefields, crumbling towns, or dilapidated castles.”

Not scored – Review by Heather Alexandra

IGN

“It took me about 55 hours to beat Nioh 2, and while every single hour of gameplay was challenging, none of the main missions ever felt insurmountable or made me think that I needed to grind in order to overcome them. However, some of the sub-missions definitely skirted a little too close to the line between difficult and unfair.”

9/10 – Review by Mitchell Saltzman

Eurogamer

“In Dark Souls, the world is an interlocking, eldritch conundrum. In Nioh 2, it’s a series of fiendish puzzle boxes. Engrossing and oppressive, for sure, but not that startling or intriguing. Nioh 2 is a work of immense skill and scale, but Team Ninja’s next project needs to be more about changing things than adding them. After all, no amount of equipment buffs can protect you against the element of surprise.”

Recommended – Review by Edwin Evans-Thirlwell

Destructoid

“If there’s one point I want to get across above all others, it’s this: Nioh 2 isn’t as revelatory as the first game, but that shouldn’t be held as a mark against it – at least not this time. Team Ninja was right to iterate and expand carefully. Nioh got so much right on the first go.”

9/10 – Review by Jordan Devore

Other publications

  • Game Informer – 8.5/10
  • Metro – 9/10
  • USGamer – 3.5/5
  • Atomic – 82/100
  • ShackNews – 8/10

Title: Nioh 2
Developer: Team Ninja
Publisher: Koei Tecmo / Sony Interactive Entertainment
Released: March 13, 2020
Platform: PlayStation 4


Visit our new releases page for more on this week’s new video games.

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Is Ori and the Will of the Wisps worth playing?

Ori and the Will of the Wisps is the latest game from Moon Studios. It’s the follow-up to Ori and the Blind Forest, but is it as good?

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Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Moon Studios

Ori and the Will of the Wisps is the latest Xbox One and Windows 10 exclusive from Moon Studios. It’s the follow-up to the 2015’s acclaimed Ori and the Blind Forest, but is it as good? We dip our toe in critical waters to find out. 

Creating a sequel to Ori and the Blind Forest was never going to be an easy task for Moon Studios, but based on the overwhelmingly positive critical response for Ori and the Will of the Wisps, it appears the studio has once again struck gold.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps refines and expands on what made the first game so special with a delicate and affecting story, a glorious, imaginative world to explore, and some spectacular boss battles.

Here’s our pick of the game’s reviews.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps review round-up

Mashable

“When everything lines up so perfectly like it does in Will of the Wisps, it’s hard to pull away. It’s an experience that’s probably familiar to those who’ve played some of the legendary games that make up the 2D platforming pantheon — games like Super Metroid, Celeste, Hollow Knight, and Super Meat Boy.”

Not scored – Review by Kellen Beck

PC Gamer

“I prefer Ori and the Blind Forest for its compactness and simplicity, but Ori and the Will of the Wisps is also worth playing to the end. It trips over its complexity at times, and really doesn’t need so much combat, but it’s gorgeous, funny, and the triple-jumping could go on forever without getting old.”

81/100 – Review by Tyler Wilde

Polygon

Ori and the Will of the Wisps offers a gorgeous world to explore and a varied, creative series of abilities and tasks that guide my exploration and help me see more of this wonderful place. It expands my options in combat and offers me more to do, and mostly benefits from that added complexity, while losing some of its focus in the process.”

 Not scored – Review by Andrew King

GameSpot

“Ori’s suite of acrobatic moves makes delving into new areas a thrilling treat. Exploration becomes especially engaging as you unlock more abilities and become increasingly adept. Some of them are lifted directly from the first game, which can be disappointing next to the excitement of discovering a shiny new ability. Still, those old standbys still work well and make the improvisational leaps and bounds feel as great as ever.”

8/10 – Review by Steve Watts

VentureBeat

“As a huge fan of Ori and the Blind Forest, Will of the Wisps is everything that I could have wanted from a sequel. It’s a longer adventure with fantastic additions, especially the incredible boss fights. The ending sequence will go down as one of the best in gaming history. The occasional technical problems can be annoying, but I’d put up with five times as many bugs to play through this masterpiece.”

98/100 – Review by Mike Minotti

Videogamer

“I would place Ori and the Will of the Wisps in the small catalogue of games, tucked into a sunny corner of my mind, from which I would make prescriptions for anyone with rainy spirits. The solution, when life stands no chance of imitating its art, is merely to jump back in.”

9/10 – Review by Josh Wise

IGN

“In Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Moon Studios has taken an excellent foundation and made even more out of it. Its many new elements expand on and add to the first game’s fun without bogging it down or becoming overcomplicated. And that’s really the best praise you can give a sequel – it stays true to the spirit of the original, doubles down on what made it great, and gives you more stake in the world and options to navigate it.”

9/10 – Review by Brandin Tyrell

Other publications

  • TheSixthAxis – 100
  • GameInformer – 95
  • VGC – 100
  • Twinfinite – 90

Title: Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Developer: Moon Studios
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Release date: March 11, 2020
Platform: Xbox One, PC (Available via Xbox Game Pass)


Visit our new releases section for more on this week’s new video games.

Thumbsticks needs your help

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