Bandai Namco Roundup, Part 2 (Project CARS, Natural Doctrine, Lara Croft: Temple of Osiris)
Continuing from Part 1, here’s the rest of the schweet schtuff I got my hands on at Bandai Namco:
PC, Xbox One, PS4 - November 2014
Wii U - 2015
The best way of summarising the crowd-funded Project CARS is that it is to racing games what Dark Souls is to fantasy games.
No perceivable story – not that it needs one – but whoa-on-a-stick is there a ton of customisation, tracks, cars, difficulty settings, AI settings and weather presets. You could probably drive a go-kart around Bathurst’s Mt Panorama on high difficulty against overly-aggressive AI competitors, with realistic tyre-ruining sand and an encroaching rainstorm, given the amount of flexibility there is in the gameplay setup.
Actually, that’s exactly what we did do. Mt Panorama. In go-karts. With rain coming.
While I can definitely recommend Project CARS for driving enthusiasts, particularly those who were unimpressed by recent Forza and Gran Turismo offerings, the one big thing screaming at me is that it’s very much a game for hardcore drivers. Granted, you can scale back the difficulty to human levels and still get a lot of fun from it, but I gather those with the most to gain are the ones content to while away time getting their presets just right for the ultimate driving experience. The controls are also not suited to drivers like me who just wanna firewall the gas pedal without crashing into every barrier the track offers (though that is still very entertaining).
I personally suck at driving games that don’t involve missiles or mushroom speed boosts, but I still greatly enjoyed Project CARS. The fact that a crowd-funded game produced work of this calibre is also a very good reason to support crowd-funding, if you didn’t have one already.
Also, go-karts. On Mt Panorama. With rain coming.
PS3, PS4 - September 2014
Of all the schweet stuff Bandai Namco showed me, the most disappointing for me was Natural Doctrine. It’s like mashing up early days Final Fantasy Tactics with latter-day XCOM, but without the ease of control in the latter and about twice as much repetitive (and slightly grating) dialogue.
I confess I’m not entirely flush on the story Doctrine offers, though given the amount of character chatter in-between missions I am certain there is one, but it’s got something to do with mercenaries protecting some blonde lady who’s apparently important and is testing them for something. Also she carries a blunderbuss. As attempts at stories go it’s a start, I guess.
Gameplay is a little frustrating. The combat tutorial, while lengthy and certainly making an attempt at being in-depth, took far too long to let go of the handlebars, and when it did I still had a flimsy grasp of how things worked half an hour later. When I did get a bit of an inkling on how combat was meant to proceed, I found my contributions didn’t do much to actually kill anything and that it was largely reliant on the enemy AI deciding it felt sorry for me.
It might be the kind of thing someone with a lot of time and patience for the irksome character voices could work out, but I personally found it lacking. If nothing else, it at least presented an alternative RPG combat system to the usual drop-down-menu-click-a-button rigmarole, and that has to be highlighted. Might be your cup of tea, but not really mine. I’m more of a coffee drinker anyway.
PC, Xbox One, PS4 - December 2014
If Tales of Xillia 2 was my favourite game in this lot, Lara Croft’s latest sojourn is a very, very close second.
If you’ve played a Tomb Raider game that wasn’t that 2013 reboot thingy, then you’ll know the story; Lara finds a tomb, there’s an artefact in there that unleashes bad things, hilarity ensues. Where Temple’s strength as its own game lies is within the top-down shooter gameplay, positioned for the good ol’ “couch co-op” days of local multiplayer, teamwork to solve puzzles and only the occasional “accidental” dropping of your friend into a pit of spikes during said teamwork.
The mechanics for both soloists and multiplayers are streamlined and easy once you get the hang of them; everyone has a unique ability suited to combat and puzzle-solving, and convivial attitudes yield greater results. The challenge in the demo I played escalated nicely, advancing from strange skeleton warriors dispatched with one bullet to a bloody massive underground crocodile trying to eat us. That bit in particular was cause, at least on my end, for much yelling and frantic mashing of buttons.
What also helps Temple is that each character is not simply the same model with a different skin. All four playable heroes have separate power sets and tools they can utilise, with the gameplay tailoring itself to whichever characters are on hand for the puzzles. The lack of a rigid structure or surface cosmetic differences is welcome, and I’d wager one could play solo with all four in turn and come out with four similar but fundamentally different runs.
Jumping physics were a little finicky at times, deciding at the drop of a hat what was and was not a jump-on-able surface whenever it felt like it, and the special grapple attack Lara uses to abseil down rock faces to get at loot occasionally decided to turn itself off just to make things interesting. Neither got hugely in the way of the fun, though, which is great. I loved Temple of Osiris so much, I might even consider pawning a kidney to afford a console to play it on this Christmas.
Thanks once again to Bandai Namco and the Sydney studio for some truly excellent games. Until next time!