Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV (PSVR) Review: Not-So-Deep Fishing Sim

Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV (PSVR) Review: Not-So-Deep Fishing Sim

Final Fantasy, the name alone is synonymous with so many images. Turn-based combat, beautiful visuals, epic monsters, but fishing doesn’t generally come to mind. Thanks to virtual reality, Final Fantasy has now tackled fishing with Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy.

Monster of the Deep is a graphically stunning fishing simulator mixed with a small amount of Final Fantasy XV. I figured I would spend time relaxing, casting out my line and reeling in some fish. A tranquil experience, or so I thought.

Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV (PSVR) Review: Not-So-Deep Fishing Sim 1
Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV (PSVR) – gameplay image via Square Enix

Players embody Hunters, tasked with hunting Daemon fish. Hunters fish an area until enough non-evil fish are caught to attract the Daemon. Once the Daemon appears, a boss battle will ensue. Players must weaken the Daemon enough with their weapon to capture it.

A little unexpected, don’t you think?

Done in an attempt to add a little gameplay variety and serving as a basis for the flimsy story, the hunting of Daemons feels out of place in this fishing simulator. Yes, if there was any fishing simulator that would do something like this, it should be a Final Fantasy fishing simulator, especially to help add that Final Fantasy magical element to the world. However, Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV would have been fine without this mechanic. The atmosphere and characters serve as enough to brand it with Final Fantasy. I was perturbed at first, having my fishing experience so rudely interrupted by a first-person shooter boss battle. A boss battle where death can occur. I died fishing. Fishing! Let that sink it. It was jarring. Yet after the first boss battle, I became more accepting of it, but it feels tacked on.

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Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV (PSVR) – gameplay image via Square Enix

The actual fishing aspect of Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV lured me in. It is relaxing and everything I wanted in a fishing simulator. The physical casting of the line took practice. I would cast directly out in front and my line would veer off to one side. This often related back to the hardware and usually cleared up after recalibrating the VR. I used the PlayStation Move controllers, which made casting more fluid and the boss battles easier, because I don’t want to die at the fin of a fish, again.

There is more than just a shallow story mode to Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV. Free fishing is an option for those who just want the relaxing experience of fishing. I spent a great deal of time in Tournaments. Tournaments can be won by having the heaviest fish, catching certain kinds of fish, or the total weight of things caught. I say “things” because my mad fishing skills caught me a boot. Players can also take up hunts to target a specific fish. Hunts and Tournaments can earn Gil, which is used to purchase new outfits, poles, lures, reels, and lines. How aboot that?

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Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV (PSVR) – gameplay image via Square Enix

The surroundings of Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV are picturesque and allowed me to minimally explore the landscape of Eos. The graphics lend themselves well to a Final Fantasy title. Beautifully rendered yet still colourful enough to remind players it is a fictional world. The environment is littered with mystical creatures of Final Fantasy. I spent some time fishing while kicking it with a Chocobo. I often found myself fishing with some familiar faces from FF XV. For Final Fantasy fans, these limited interactions will be satisfying as it is mainly just fan service since they serve no narrative purpose. Although there are points in the game where I am sure Square Enix was attempting to titillate me with Cindy. I mention this because I have yet to experience a VR title that made me feel that uncomfortable observing a character.

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Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV (PSVR) – gameplay image via Square Enix

The sounds of Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV are sufficient. I have little to complain about except for the minimal conversational abilities of the AI. My time with Noctis and his buddies was short when fishing yet I would hear them repeat the same lines over and over again. If there had been more variety in their casual conversation it could have really added to the immersion. In casual conversation, humans don’t tend to repeat themselves, unless they are drunk.

Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV, while not an epic virtual reality experience, it is a pleasant one. This is a title I would recommend to Final Fantasy XV fans for a relaxing evening. For players wanting a thrill, I say look elsewhere to get an adrenal rush, but for those who really enjoy the experiences that are offered by the PlayStation VR, this is an addition to the tryout list. You might just get hooked.

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Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV (PSVR) – gameplay image via Square Enix

Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out more of Melanie Emile’s reviews such as Cuphead, Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2, and Until Dawn!

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Major Layoffs Hit CCP as the Studio Shifts Away from VR

Major Layoffs Hit CCP as the Studio Shifts Away from VR

The studio behind EVE Valkyrie, CCP is stepping down from virtual reality, something that until now has been a significant focus for the Iceland-based studio. Unfortunately, CCP is also in the process of shutting down two of their branches, one in Atalanta and another in Newcastle as part of a wave of layoffs (leaving them with their London and Shanghai studios).

Read moreMajor Layoffs Hit CCP as the Studio Shifts Away from VR

Resident Evil 7: Gold Edition Announced For Consoles And PC

Resident Evil 7: Gold Edition Announced For Consoles And PC

Capcom has just announced that Resident Evil 7 will be getting a definitive edition in the form of Resident Evil 7: Gold Edition.

Resident Evil 7: Gold Editon will be available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. The upcoming re-release was unveiled in the latest issue of the popular Japanese gaming magazine, Famitsu.

The Japanese release of Resident Evil 7: Gold Editon will include both the standard edition of the game in addition to an Ages 18+ Adults only copy of the title.  The adult version of the game will most likely be the standard edition of the North American release—in Japan, violence and gore is generally given a stricter age restriction, hence why the new edition of the game will be getting two versions.

The Gold edition of Resident Evil 7 will also include the full title in addition to both volumes of the Banned Footage downloadable content. Interestingly enough, the new release will also include a brand new chapter known as End of Zoe.

The never before-released End of Zoe chapter will star Zoe Baker and takes place at the end of her story during the events of Resident Evil 7. Those who already own the vanilla Resident Evil 7 can purchase End of Zoe digitally for ¥1,500 ($17 CAD).

Finally, alongside End of Zoe, fans of Resident Evil 7 can look forward to the Not a Hero downloadable content, which stars Chris Redfield. The Not a Hero DLC will be free of charge. Both pieces of new downloadable content will become available December 14 in Japan, no release date for other regions has been announced at this time.

Resident Evil 7 first released earlier this year, and was was praised for its return to survival horror. Over here at CGM, we gave the game a well deserved 9 out of 10, remarking on the titles’ excellent use of VR integration on PlayStation 4.

 

Essential PlayStation Titles That Deserve A PSVR Makeover

Essential PlayStation Titles That Deserve A PSVR Makeover

The PlayStation VR headset has been out for the better part of a year now, and since then, additions in the form of not only new AAA game announcements such as Skyrim VR, but new accessories such as the PSVR Aim Controller have either been announced or have hit the market.

With rumours of better tracking and a refreshed PlayStation Move controller on the horizon, Sony seems to be pushing their console exclusive virtual reality peripheral, which in turn got us here at CGM thinking about potential PSVR remasters or remakes of classic PlayStation first person titles that would benefit from a virtual reality makeover.

Essential PlayStation Titles That Deserve A PSVR Makeover 1
Resistance 3

We’ll start things off with a series that has been curiously absent on the PlayStation 4: Insomniac Games’ Resistance. The last entry into the alternate history alien shooter was 2012’s Resistance: Burning Skies for the PlayStation Vita. Unfortunately, the game was given less attention during development than its bigger brother console entries and was ultimately panned for being a bland and uninspired title. The Resistance series as a whole however were some of the best exclusive FPS titles available on the PlayStation 3, with Resistance 3 even supporting PlayStation Move controls out of the box.

The biggest thing Resistance did right—and why the series would work so well with Sony’s PSVR headset—would have to be the tense atmosphere and strong writing. Any setting ravaged by war can be considered bleak, however the war between Mankind and the Chimeras in Resistance painted a truly sombre outlook. A remaster or reboot of the series could breathe new life into the now dormant franchise, and with the added horsepower of the PlayStation 4 coupled with the immersive nature of virtual reality, Resistance could make a huge comeback and potentially even become the go to VR title for Sony’s black box.

Essential PlayStation Titles That Deserve A PSVR Makeover 2
Child of Eden

Another PlayStation Move-friendly title that could potentially benefit from a PSVR resurgence is Child of Eden, by famed creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi, best known for his work on the music rhythm game Rez. For those unfamiliar with the game, Child of Eden came out on both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 and acted as a sort of spiritual successor to Rez. Gameplay in Child of Eden consists of the player shooting a range of objects that clutter the play area. Similarly to Rez, shooting said objects results in musical notes that modify and add to the overall tempo and feel of the music in any given stage.

PlayStation Move elevated the game to new levels, giving players precise motion controls that let them immerse themselves in the synth-filled abstract world of Child of Eden. Rez Infinite, which was a PSVR launch title, took the classic music game and allowed PlayStation gamers to experience Rez in a virtual reality space.

Rez Infinite also contained a new special mode known as Area X. Made from the ground up for PlayStation 4 and PSVR, Area X added a new level that took advantage of the PS4’s hardware and gave players a small glimpse into what a new game from Tetsuya Mizuguchi could look like. A follow up to Child of Eden or just another music rhythm game from Mizuguchi for the PlayStation VR platform could end up potentially being the best way to experience music rhythm games going forward.

Essential PlayStation Titles That Deserve A PSVR Makeover 3
House of the Dead: Overkill

Until Dawn: Rush of Blood proved that PSVR could reinvigorate the ‘’on-rails’’ style of first person gaming and make it exciting (and terrifying) again, and no other series more than SEGA’s The House of the Dead franchise deserves to be on a virtual reality platform. The long running goofy and gut-filled zombie shooter series first made its debut all the way back in 1996 in Arcades, with PC and console versions that hit two years later. The series is known for its fun shooting gallery style gameplay mixed in with awful, yet somehow endearing dialogue.

Those who never experienced a House of the Dead title, especially the older entries in the series, can look at it as what it would feel like stepping inside the world of a B movie zombie flick. A PlayStation VR House of the Dead would work wonderfully for the franchise and recapture that whoa factor patrons of arcades and movie theatres had when the game first released back in the mid 90s.

Of course, there can’t be a list relating to first person games on the PlayStation without mentioning the Killzone series. Although the Guerrilla Games franchise has come to an end after the events of Killzone Shadow Fall on PlayStation 4, there is always room for a reboot or reimagining of the long running sci-fi shooter. Like Resistance 3 on the PlayStation 3, Killzone 3 allowed players to use PlayStation Move controllers and when paired with the Sharp Shooter gun accessory, the title transformed from a hardcore military shooter to a fun, more casual point-and-shoot Wii remote style romp.

The basic premise of Killzone has two factions fighting against each other: the ISA or the Interplanetary Strategic Alliance and the Helghast. The ISA are mostly composed of your average law abiding citizen, whereas those who side with the Helghast are generally more on the nasty side of things. What makes the series truly great is its visual identity: The game is rife with dark blacks, greys and foreboding reds that lend to the cool dystopian aesthetic that borrows heavily from Russian Constructivism and other pulpier propaganda-inspired art. A PSVR Killzone title could provide players with a fun sci-fi shooter and possibly a great military title, a genre that is currently lacking when it comes to the library of PSVR titles available.

Essential PlayStation Titles That Deserve A PSVR Makeover 4
LSD: Dream Simulator

Finally, ending the list is a somewhat obscure title, but one that would surely benefit from a virtual reality remake or reimagining, and that game is LSD: Dream Emulator. If the name sounds like a certain psychedelic drug, that’s because it pretty much is. LSD: Dream Emulator, or LSD for short, is one of the most surreal games to ever hit the original PlayStation, perhaps even gaming in general. LSD released way back in 1998 exclusively for Japanese territories.

LSD gives players a means to explore randomly generated sequences—or dreams—in which they can explore and interact with strange and often otherworldly environments. Upon making contact with one of the many residents in a dream, the game will warp the player into another sequence. LSD is a title that consists solely of exploration and the sense of discovery that comes with it. The core design of the game was inspired by the dream journal of Hiroko Nishikawa, an artist that worked for Asmik Ace Entertainment, the developers of LSD: Dream Emulator. The title would be a great fit for PSVR in that it would be able to transport players to different surrealistic worlds in a way that only virtual reality can offer. The exploratory nature of the game is perfect match for those looking to get lost in the world of virtual reality and a full blown remake of LSD: Dream Emulator should be more than capable of delivering a truly unique experience.

Crafting Music for Farpoint: an Interview With Unified Sounds

Crafting Music for Farpoint: an Interview With Unified Sounds

Virtual Reality is changing the face of video games, and while a lot of focus tends to fall on its visual aspects, composing the perfect soundtrack is also vitally important in maintaining an immersive virtual gaming experience. Farpoint is an impressive first-person shooter for the PlayStation VR. Players will experience alien landscapes and, well, shoot spiders. Steve Cox and Danny McIntyre of Unified Sounds built the soundtrack for Farpoint, and were kind enough to talk to CGM about their history with the medium, what makes VR different from a normal gaming experience, and the importance of storytelling from a musical perspective.


CGMagazine: You guys composed to music for Farpoint, but can you tell us more about the history of Unified Sounds?

Steve Cox: I’m the lead composer of Farpoint, the awesome VR game where you blow up spiders (I still play it, way too often). I started a company with Danny, my partner in crime, around 2012, so not too long ago. We joined forces and started collecting amazing composers and producers, and produced Unified Sounds to handle a lot of the TV work we were getting like CBS Sports. Ever since, we’ve just been doing a lot of exciting work, and once Sony came along it got super exciting. Oh, by the way, I’m a composer.

Danny McIntyre: I’m also a composer and producer, I started working with Steve just a little bit before Unified Sounds came to fruition. We did a bunch of collaborations for CBS Sports, which is one of the main things we contribute to compositionally, and we have a number of writers who work under us and for us and with us and we do everything from Video Games to sports music to TV to background music. Everything, you name it. We’ve got really strong composers that do their thing in different genres. I’ve been working with Steve since about 2010, and we also worked at Full Sail University. He used to teach there and I’m the department chair there. We very much have our fingers on the pulse as to whatever’s new and cool and hot so we can share it with our students.

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Farpoint (PSVR) – gameplay images via Sony Interactive Entertainment

CGMagazine: Have you guys done much video game work prior to Farpoint?

Danny McIntyre: Actually, yeah; applications, put it that way. We have a few members, one member in particular Michael Schiciano, who is credited on Farpoint as well. He has quite a thick mobile game background, so we were able to pick his brains quite a bit and process that. Farpoint is definitely the first and biggest game opportunity that we’ve had. We have done some sound design and also some trailers for a different game a few years before this one. It was a game called Depth, and they actually recorded me in a swimming pool with my scuba gear for some sound design stuff, and then Steve and I scored the trailers to those three videos that came out. I think aside from that, Steve is right that Farpoint is the first really big game that we’ve worked on. But really, I consider it all kind of the same, in the end, it’s just storytelling.

CGMagazine: How do approach scoring a game compared to other media?

Danny McIntyre: As I was saying before, it’s really a matter of storytelling. With any scoring for media, the composer has to first figure out the sound palette of the universe. It could be a television show, it could be a movie, it could be a video game. But once you have that the rest is kind of done. It’s just a matter of developing those ideas and the only difference between them is the deliverables, we might have to send in multiple versions of one thing for a video game or we might only have to send in a 30-second clip for a movie. It’s just a matter of what does the client want physically from us, but emotionally it’s all very the same. How can we set … the stage for the story to take place … and manipulate over time.

Steve Cox: If there’s any difference between game writing and film and other media, it’s the whole nonlinear aspect. It sort of starts that way with a film in the beginning, you’re sketching out scenes and the tentpole pieces for the emotional content, but after that you really have to lock down the timeline, where the score is going to progress in a linear fashion, and being disconnected from that whole ball and chain during a game writing process is really freeing in a lot of ways. You get to experiment, and I really enjoyed the creative aspect of being untethered from the timeline. I think the sound palette was more important with Farpoint … than any film or TV show I’ve done. Finding the right instrumentation, the right vibe, and the right world. You’re really writing to the atmosphere first and foremost, and then after that, it’s the storytelling that kicks in and takes over the composition process. It’s a lot of fun.

CGMagazine: How long does your process typically take?

Steve Cox: It was about nine months, maybe a little longer. We did the demo and it was pretty quick that we got the response back, maybe a week or two. That was back in February and we really didn’t kick it off until the end of March, and then were more or less done at the end of the year on our part. We still had the soundtrack, we still had quite a lot of mixing that went into 2017, but as for composition and the heavy lifting, that was more or less wrapped in nine months. There are also a lot of gaps in there. We’d finish a chunk that was asked of us, but the developers had to basically lay down the tracks for the next part, so we’d have to wait for that to be laid down before we continued working. If we compressed the time, it probably didn’t take us that much time, but it was spread out over the nine months because the whole thing was being built from scratch.

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Farpoint (PSVR) – gameplay images via Sony Interactive Entertainment

CGMagazine: Is doing music for VR different in any way? Is that something you guys take into account when writing the music?

Steve Cox: I think in the beginning it was kind of like a “that’s a thing we’ll address later in the mix, we’ll fix that in post” but it was really two tiers in that we realized that this is very important in how thick the instrumentation is going to be, how sparse, how the ambiance should envelop the listener—and I’m talking about the musical ambiance, not just the background sound effects, which Sony handled and did great with all the sound design. During the process, it felt like the sound design and the music were kind of one and the same for a while a there. We were trying to create a palette of rich textures that could … as an alien background to a planet, when it came to mixing and implementation it was very different, very specific, very pinpoint. That required some tricky deliverables—more so than a normal game or film.

Danny McIntyre: Steve nailed it. Especially, in the end, it was where Steve really shined.

CGMagazine: Where did you guys look for influence when making this?

Danny McIntyre: All over the place really. One of the biggest cues that they sent us for reference was the opening to Aliens, the Goldsmith theme … what was really kind of sparse string lighting, that one stuck with me. It was weird in that it didn’t necessarily mean that they wanted strings, but the sparseness of that part; the coldness of that scene, that they were attracted to. Other than that I think it was a matter of Steve and I just making up weird sounds and inspiring each other.

Steve Cox: Goldsmith was a big one – that was part of the brief going in. That kind of lonely, stuck in space…it’s eerie, it’s dark. That was a big part of the vibe they were going for. I think along the way when it comes to gameplay and the kind of action that would work during those scenes—and this is about halfway through the composition process—we started taking a look at The Last of Us, I’m talking about the real in-game cues that you won’t hear on the soundtrack but you can dig … up in-game, and the way it used that really heavy sound design, sparse percussion with a lot of space in-between – it was really inspiring.

Danny McIntyre: Yeah, it’s a really great score, good call.

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Farpoint (PSVR) – gameplay images via Sony Interactive Entertainment

CGMagazine: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Danny McIntyre: I think it’s really fun to play. … Steve and I try to have business meetings on the phone at least once a day, and sometimes we have them in co-op mode in Farpoint. We’ll meet up in a spaceship and we’ll decide which towns we’re going to jump on, and while we’re blowing up spiders we’ll talk Unified Sounds. It’s a really cool game and it’s quite addictive.

Steve Cox: I have to second that. It’s really fun to play, and all the trepidation about VR causing motion sickness was a non-issue. For everyone that I’ve exposed to it, the co-op mode … next level, and it’s so much fun. It beats Skype.

CGMagazine: Thanks a lot, guys. Best of luck with everything going forward!

Both: Thank you so much for your time.

Archangel (PSVR) Review – Guardians of the USA

Archangel (PSVR) Review - Guardians of the USA

Become a Guardian and save your friends in Skydance Interactive’s virtual reality title Archangel. Archangel allows players to take the helm of one bad-ass mech suit, mowing down enemies in a hail of bullets. While Archangel hasn’t been the first on-rails shooter to hit VR, it is worth experiencing.

Archangel doesn’t bring anything truly innovative to the table, but this doesn’t subtract from the overall game. The gameplay is simple: point and shoot. It maybe not a complicated mechanic, but for manning a mech Pacific Rim style and shooting enemies out of the sky while wandering through post-apocalypse cities, simple works. Shooting enemies is accomplished with both the gun and missiles provided by the mech suit. Players can also raise shields individually to the right or left to help protect their mech’s hull integrity. If hull integrity reaches 0, it’s bye bye Guardian. Hull integrity, as well as everything else related to the mech, can be upgraded with data at the end of every stage.

Archangel (PSVR) Review - Guardians of the USA
Archangel gamplay images via Skydance Interactive

Archangel is an on-rails shooter consisting of slower movement than most other on-rails VR games (Until Dawn: Rush of Blood). The leisurely pace and lack of vertical movement lend itself well to those with motion sickness, so no puking in the mech. The only quick movement is that of the player’s head while they observe and target enemies. The button layout on the Move controllers took me some time to adjust to, but was easy to adapt to once I changed my physical sitting position. Archangel controls better when you give yourself more range of motion in your arms. When I was sitting down with my elbows closer to my body due to the  restraint of being sunken in my chair, I often found my line of sight being blocked by the mech’s arms. This made seeing targets more difficult. Players with X-ray vision will not encounter this issue, but for all other players, ensure there is room to groove or play with the Dualshock controller.

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Archangel gamplay images via Skydance Interactive

While the environments don’t create a lot of atmosphere, the visuals within Archangel are stunning. There aren’t many VR titles out there with this level of graphical quality. The story of Archangel, however, is generic. A resistance under the name Guardian fights against the tyrannical corporation of HUMNX to save what is left of the United States. Inventive right? Skydance Interactive tries to pull at the player’s heartstrings with really uncreative story beats, including a cheap ploy to provoke sympathy very early in Archangel. However, without much character development, players aren’t likely to be emotionally invested enough to really care. I feel with a virtual reality game about a giant mech, trying to stir up deep emotions in the player was unnecessary. Not to say mechs and emotions don’t mix, as Neon Genesis Evangelion is a prime example of just that done to perfection, but Archangel cannot even begin to scratch that level of emotional investment. In time, when VR games start focusing less on the experience of the technology, we’ll see VR games with more engaging stories. This story as a whole, though, is uninteresting – a cookie cutter post-apocalyptic scenario.

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Archangel gamplay images via Skydance Interactive

The characters of Archangel are also drab and created from the same mold we’ve seen many times before.  The characters may seem uninspired, but the voice acting isn’t. with the voice cast putting on a stellar performance perfectly portraying soldiers who’ve suffered emotional trauma but who must persist with their fight regardless.

Owning a mech isn’t cheap. While the price tag for the game is not unprecedented, players may find it steep for the short experience Archangel is, clocking in just under three hours. Except for me, who took much longer, as I apparently make a horrible Guardian. I hope the price tag doesn’t scare all players off, as the experience as a whole is enjoyable. Maybe lease a mech. The story may not be fantastic, but the visuals and just the pure pleasure of shooting projectiles while stomping around in a giant robot make up for it. Picture this: you turn the corner to see tanks staring back at you, raise the mech’s massive arm and gesture, “come at me bro.” Sometimes it’s the simple things that cause you to develop a fondness for a game.

Archangel is a worthwhile experience, but not a narrative one. Players who want to experience a slightly difficult shooting situation while sitting in the belly of a mech beast may find Archangel to be just what they need. For players looking for a strong engaging story involving mechs and emotions: watch anime.