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A few days ago, Square Enix released a free update to their hit game, Final Fantasy XV. The Moogle Chocobo Carnival can be accessed from the main menu. Therefore, you only need a single save file, at any point in the game, to play it. I recommend using your main save since some items you gain during the carnival will be moved over to your main file.

Impressions

Upon entering the carnival, Noctis is met with Carbuncle, the creature who players first meet in either the tutorial of Final Fantasy XV or the Platinum demo. Carbuncle gives Noctis his first quest, which is to earn enough choco-mog medallions to trade in for a coupon that gives the player a nights stay at the Leville and an exclusive seating for the firework show.  You can earn medallions in a few ways; you can earn them by completing quests, playing mini games and finding them around town, but I’ll get to that part later.

 

Aesthetics

First, I want to talk about the aesthetics of the carnival. Altissia has been completely transformed. Every NPC, building and street is adorned in colorful decorations. The NPCs are talking about things happening at the carnival, adding to the playful atmosphere.  The vibrant environment only made me more excited to dive in and see what the carnival had to offer. Just make sure you equip the new outfit that comes with the update; Noctis’s usual black outfit will feel out of place. However, I was a bit disappointed that my bros weren’t by my side. I would have loved to hear some carnival exclusive banter. But, I digress. Noctis is still a good sport without his friends around. I’ll admit, I was a bit giddy wandering around the town. The environment is silly and uplifting, a nice contrast to the adventuring Noctis is doing in the main campaign.

 

Mini-Games and Firework Show

The mini-games are fun at first, but they get old quickly. There are a few games I came across at the carnival like the chocobo races, a shooting game, a variation of whack a mole (but with a cactuar!), and a moogle dance. My favorite game is where you shoot at a bunch of targets; however, the only problem is that the courses never change. The targets show in the same place, only differing by the difficulty level. So, trying to get 35,000 points got infuriating after a few attempts. It felt like grinding, but I guess that’s Final Fantasy’s charm. The missions are basic as well. Also, fighting is not allowed at the carnival, so Noctis only has a toy sword!  As for other games, try visiting Weskham’s restaurant and try being a waiter, or if that’s not your thing, why not try fishing for some prizes?

The icing on the cake for me was the firework show. The first night, I didn’t have enough medallions for the special VIP seating, so I watched from the highest point of Altissia I could find (thanks to Carbuncle’s insistence). Beautiful as it was, nothing tops the close-up firework show you get if you do have the VIP coupon! Though, it’s just not the same taking my own pictures of the firework show without my buddy Prompto along for the ride.

 

Final Thoughts

Overall, the nagging issue for me was not the repetitiveness (because it’s a small event meant to keep players interested in the game), but my isuue is that Noctis is the only one experiencing the carnival. Especially because Final Fantasy XV’s core theme is friendship. Maybe it’s some kind of dream world separate from the story (as Carbuncle has dragged Noctis off to in the past). Either way, I appreciate the novelty of the add on. The dedication of the Square Enix team shows promise for future DLCs and patches to come.

 

The Chocobo Moogle Carnival is only running until February 20th, so download the free holiday pack DLC now to get your ticket to the carnival! 

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Originally released last year on the PC and now available on consoles, FEIST is a side scrolling action game that combines complex physics and dynamic gameplay. You play as a little fur creature trying to rescue its mate from a savage unpredictable world. As you make your way across a mysterious forest, you come in contact with bigger foes and challenging escape routes that depend on precise movement and decisions.

In FEIST, all elements interact with each other in the game, making for some really interesting and unpredictable situations. I was very impressed with how complex the enemy AI are. The flying bugs for example, chased me down relentlessly, forcing me to take cover when I could and take action when the timing was right. Their movement was always unpredictable. Sometimes they would swoop down to attack and sometimes they would hover, allowing me to move and then they would shoot stingers at me from a distance, which are very accurate by the way. The spiders were even more relentless, chasing me down no matter how far I ran and they would accumulate in numbers the more I ignored them. It would start with 1 or 2 spiders chasing me and then before I knew it, there were quadruple that amount and I was done for.

Itsy Bitsy spiders aren’t so Itsy Bitsy

The enemies were so unpredictable, it made every encounter feel different. Even though the enemies were in the same spot, their movement varied and any mistake I made, they made sure I paid for it. It was frustrating at times because I found myself thinking a lot of this depends on luck, since the enemies were so unpredictable in their aggression and attacks. However, the more frustrated I got, the more and more I was impressed with the AI and FEIST all together.

Not only are the enemy AI very complex, but the physics of my character and the environment was even more impressive. I found myself having to be very precise when maneuvering my way through the forest. If my jumps were too aggressive, I fell. When my jumps were too soft, I fell. Also, there are moments where I stood on boxes and tree trunks that hung by ropes and had to use my body to swing them back and forth to make it to higher ground. Sounds easy enough! Only, it wasn’t that easy and really required precise movement of my body weight to make it swing how fast and high I wanted. There are also sticks, rocks, and pine cones that you can interact with by picking them up and using them to hurl at enemies or use to jump on to get to higher ground. It was very fascinating to see how well the environment interacted with my character.

Through the rain, through the mud, we will find our mate no matter what…

Developed by Swiss Studio Bits & Beasts (Adrain Stutz & Florian Faller), FEIST has won multiple awards for its beautifully handcrafted action and I can completely see why! I was very impressed with FEIST and would recommend it to anyone, especially if you are into side scrolling indies that have a lot of challenge. It’s beautiful to look at too, with its very unique art style and vibrant colors. The sound effects and music are also done very well. Check out FEIST! It is now available on PS4 and Xbox One for $10.

Have you played FEIST? If so, what did you think of our review? If not, will you be picking it up? Let us know!

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The Jackbox Party Pack 3 came out just a few short weeks ago. It’s the newest installment of crazy party games to play with your friends either over the internet through twitch or local multiplayer. To read my review on part 1, click here and for part 2, click here. This review will be written with local multiplayer in mind. I haven’t actually gotten to play with the twitch functionality yet, but there is a plethora of features with online game sessions in mind.

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Worms W.M.D.

The first word that comes to mind when I think about this game is difficult. Stop right there. Don’t write this game off just yet. Let me explain. Worms W.M.D has the look and feel of a classic online browser game packed into a polished console game. Despite the look of the game, it is much more complex than a bunch of worms shooting each other with massive weapons.

What I love most about gaming is when a game comes out and it’s so much of what I wanted – and I just didn’t know it yet. I have had the privilege of having that experience again while playing Furi over the past weekend and I’m hooked! I have a backlog I had planned on starting and its going further into the backseat because all I want to do now is play Furi. Because I haven’t had enough time to beat Furi (and I’m too stubborn to lower the difficulty in order to hurry up the process), I have been only able to fight 5 bosses so far, along with some quality time in the practice mode to understand the ins and outs of these bosses even further. I wanted to go ahead and give my first impressions based on my experience thus far and in a nutshell, Furi is a total sleeper hit.

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The Girl Who Was Branded an Outcast
 “The girl is a curse, she came from nowhere. She is no one.” A tribal elder featured in the story trailer for the upcoming PS4 exclusive Horizon Zero Dawn declares.  However, a few more minutes into the trailer, a young girl appears, and she asks the man assigned to raise her, “Why am I an outcast?”
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In Horizon Zero Dawn, we will guide Aloy as she pushes herself to find answers to the past.

It’s All in the Sprint!
This one small scene is a heartbreaking introduction to who will become our main protagonist, Aloy. It’s not only heartbreaking because a child is asking this question, but It’s heartbreaking because this question is one many of us have asked ourselves.  We may have been pushed out of our family or social circles,  separated ourselves from everyone else due to physical, mental or traumatic issues, or even known someone who has been an outcast. In my history of watching game trailers, I have never felt  so connected to a character as I did with Aloy. I connect with her because I know what it feels like to be an outcast, and I know what it is like to beat obstacles in life. Though this scene moved me to the core, it would not be the first time Aloy would capture my attention.
I had just remembered that it was E3 week.  I tuned into E3 Live on YouTube and watched as this red-haired seemingly paleolithic girl sprint through the wilderness. A wilderness populated by mechanical beasts!  This game seemed to be interesting; however, I barely noticed the mechs, and the developer’s commentary is reduced to background noise. However, I only focused on the way Aloy is running. She is running as if she is in the Olympics, and wants to win.  The trailer confirmed my hunch. Aloy is determined. According to her guardian, the elders of the tribe are doing their best to hold her back from searching for the truth.
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Aloy’s sprint not only displays her determination to find answers but it also displays her determination to survive.

The Unstoppable Aloy
While it’s unknown why she is cast out, Aloy longs to know more about the past. It’s an unknown past that keeps her on her feet in the present. Therefore, Aloy’s guardian describes her tenacity the best.  “Always you pushed for answers, pushed yourself to the edge.”  We watch her grow from a frightened yet persistent child to an unyielding and lionhearted young woman.
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Aloy is with the man who will teach her how to stay alive in a harsh world.

Like a worried father, her guardian tries to end her quest. “Out here in the valley, we may be outcasts, but it’s safe.” He warns her, ” Out there girl, you’ll be lost. You won’t know where to turn or who to trust. You’ll be chasing a riddle into a wilderness of mysteries.”
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In a wilderness of mysteries, Aloy will fight anyone at any cost.

Fight ‘Til the End
Despite her guardian’s warnings, Aloy heads on her quest. Therefore, she hunts mechanical creatures and uses their parts for ammo, tools, and anything else she needs to keep her alive. Throughout her search for the truth, the word “outcast” never eludes her. It follows her like one of the menacing mechs she often hunts.
“Outcast! You came from nothing! You will die a nothing!” This is yelled by a man who would pass for a prehistoric Templar, as he held Aloy by her neck over a cliff. The man, we assume, proceeds to plunge a knife into the protagonist.
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Aloy’s journey will take her to dangerous territories.

Furthermore, as evidenced by the trailer, Aloy will be battling mechanical creatures who rule the wilderness, naysayers, and treacherous enemies. Yet, no matter the cost, Aloy won’t stop for anyone. Besides, growth is challenging what you’re most afraid of, and Aloy chooses to face her fears. Therefore, she will keep hunting for the truth even it kills her.  “I came from somewhere. Even if it destroys me, I will see this through.”
 
What Will Become of Aloy?
Who will Alloy be? What will she discover? How will she fare in a post-apocalyptic world that’s yearning for her failure?
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Therefore, no matter how hard Aloy’s obstacles are, the cards should be in her favor.  However, we won’t know her true fate until Horizon Zero Dawn is released on February 28, 2017. Regardless of what happens, Aloy will be a fresh and important representative of female gaming heroines in 2017. In fact, through trailers and brief gameplay videos alone, Aloy has already inspired me to be persistent and continually challenge myself.  Also, she proves that you just can’t lose if you try. Therefore, no matter what obstacles lay in front of Aloy, no one can lose with that attitude.  I, for one, can’t wait to see what this new heroine will bring to gaming in 2017.

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A couple of weeks ago, The Witcher series was on sale on both Steam and Origin. With the enhanced edition of The Witcher at the low price of $1.50 and The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings at $2.29, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to finally play one of the most talked about story driven games. I’ve heard great things about the game, some people even comparing it to the Dragon Age series (which I adore). Now, I’m not one to pass up a good story, especially one with choices, but something seems to be stopping me from actually starting the game up. Believe it or not, it has a lot to do with the lack of character creation.

In The Witcher, you play as Geralt of Rivia. Apparently, he’s a bad ass monster hunter for hire. But, like I said, I haven’t actually played the game yet. I’ve been spoiled by games like The Sims, Dragon Age, and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim where character creation was pivotal. In The Witcher’s defense, those are all games whose story is all about the character the player wants to be. The Witcher is like some other games in which the character is given to you. You can make choices, but at the end of the day, you are playing as Geralt and experiencing his story.

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This unwillingness to play may also have something to do with my life, because who isn’t burned out after a long day of work or school? Regardless, it got me thinking, how important is character creation in a game? Often times, people ask me what my fascination with video games is. My answer to them is always the same, interactivity. A story is being told, and I am an active (rather than passive) participant of it.  We can break down the interactivity of storytelling in games even further. There is the kinetic story, which follows a strict linear story line, games that have none, like the Sims, or games such as Dragon Age and Mass Effect which allow the story to change depending on the choices you make.

When character creation is implemented, it allows the player to further immerse him or her self into the game. You create the character that you see on screen, and this doesn’t just regard full character creation but customization as well like in The Division. Being able to change a companion’s clothes, regardless of changing their features, also gives the player added control of the story. This is because the player tweaks the aesthetics to fit their vision of the world within the game. I’ve concluded that character creation’s vitality is dependent on the game that you’re playing.

Take a game like WWE 2K16. It has a host of real wrestlers from the television show to choose from. You can be anyone from Andre the Giant to John Cena. A high appeal to the game is the creation features. Throughout the series, there have been many opportunities for the player to create their own wrestler, entrance video and music, way their wrestler walks out on to the ring, and even the arena they wrestle in. The character that I make can interact with very real characters that I watch on television. I can even go as far as creating my own match cards and manipulating what happens. In this game, character creation is not vital but it enhances the experience. You can very well play with the characters and arenas already given to you.

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What about the Sims? Character creation is the selling point for The Sims 4. EA has boasted that you can change the features of your sim by dragging body parts, unlike any of the other games in the series. You even have control over how they walk, sound, and the way their family looks as well. In a game like this, character creation is vital. You have full control over the character (or characters) that you want to play, the town that they live in, the people they meet, and how they interact with the world around them.  Its appeal comes from the fact that it’s a platform for the player to create their own story, rather than giving them one. Therefore, the character creation cannot be substituted for a pre-made character, without hindering the player’s experience.

These are just two examples of games that utilize extensive customization and character creation assets. A series like Uncharted does not need character creation, because the story lines are linear. If we take out Nathan Drake, we don’t have the same iconic series. Therefore, I’ve determined that character creation is a necessity in certain kinds of games. Customization is a different story entirely. It should be utilized in more games. In Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, Lightning’s outfit changes depending on what armor you equip. This is limiting (of course) because you can’t have both your favorite looks and best stats. For example, I hated the dress that Lightning had to wear for one armor, but I needed it because it was resistant to fire. Regardless, it is a step in the right direction.

I don’t see how customization can hamper the intended story for a game. In the zombie mode for Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, the game takes place in the 1920s. Obviously, it’d be strange to have a character wearing Google Glass. To keep the feel of the game, the developer can limit the customization options to clothes of that period. If a character would wear only certain types of clothes, the developer can lay out a few templates for the player to choose from. It is this added interactivity that allows us to relate to the world of video games, while still being able to make it on our own.

 

 

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On this episode of E-I-C Speaks, Nia discusses the current state of gaming in relevance to the jaded and confrontational stance of many gamers in today’s modern gaming climate. In a world full of higher-than-before development costs and diminishing returns, it only makes sense that the medium of gaming would turn much more into a business than a labor of love as it once was in the golden age. The biggest concern though, is is this new trend affecting the way that gamers consume and perceive the products that we have been given – more specifically up to this point in generation 8? Or is it also possible that since gaming is becoming significantly more mainstream and accessible that most genres and play styles have already been explored? Long gone are the days of large graphical jumps between consoles and new genres being created. These days many games are a hodge-podge of ideas we’ve likely already been exposed to. For some, unless you experience the warmth of niche, more artistic games, you’re bound to run into that ceiling where you question the quality of the product or even your own prolonged interest in gaming. 

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While some might criticize the game market for being saturated with high testosterone shoot-em-ups meant to appeal to the base desires of the masses, Broforce brings a thoughtful, complex, and intricately crafted masterpiece to the table that….pffffffff, sorry, I can’t even finish that sentence.