Day: 23 February 2021

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 Coming to Most Major Platforms Soon

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 Coming to Most Major Platforms Soon

Activision is not one to leave a game like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 out of the re-releases mix as it preps next gen iteration for release in the coming months. The original games were released in 1999 and 2000, and then re-released for PC, PS4 and Xbox One in 2020. This year we are going to see them release again on our next-gen consoles and the Switch.

Fans of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 can get excited as the game is not only being released on March 26 for PS5 and Xbox Series X/S, but it’s going to be remastered as well. The game will feature huge graphic upgrades, running 4k at 60FPS or 1080p at 120FPS. Spatial audio has also been improved and graphics have been polished. Many people are also excited since they have announced they will release the game to Nintendo Switch later this year, but without the next-gen upgrades.

The game is already available for pre-order, and players can be relieved to hear that if you already own the game for PS4 or Xbox One you can upgrade to the “Cross-Gen Deluxe Bundle” on new consoles for $10.  If players own the Digital Deluxe Edition of the game already, it should be noted that there will be no charge for the bundle. Many owners of the game’s disc copy are upset as it doesn’t have an obvious upgrade path if you aren’t a digital copy owner. It’s rumoured that Xbox owners will not be able to upgrade the physical copy at all, but that it is available for PlayStation.

Twitter is booming with opinions from fans, some saying the game wasn’t worth the re-release without DLC. A few have been making the argument that Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater should make a 3+4 release instead of releasing 1+2 a second time, though their dreams are crushed by others saying that Activision/Blizzard is too busy with bigger projects like Diablo and World of Warcraft.

This year is looking to be big with last-gen games being re-released to new platforms. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 definitely won’t miss the train in 2021, and they’ll make a buck charging for the upgrade. Catch it March 26th on PS5 and Xbox Series X and S, and then later in the year for a more mobile option on Nintendo Switch.

Sony announces the "next generation of VR on PlayStation" 2

Sony Announces the “Next Generation of VR on PlayStation”

Sony has confirmed today that it is indeed developing a next-generation VR headset for its PlayStation 5 console. In a post on the Official PlayStation Blog, Hideaki Nishino, Senior Vice President of Platform Planning & Management promised that “players will feel an even greater sense of presence and become even more immersed in their game worlds once they put on the new headset”.

Having learned many lessons from its success with the PS VR headset for PS4, the company plans to improve upon every aspect of the current technology, from resolution and field-of-view to tracking and input. While Nishino-san offered next to no technical details on any of these improvements, an encouraging tidbit that he was able to share was that the new VR headset will connect to PS5 via a single cable, which will likely offer players more freedom of movement. More importantly, a single cable connection would theoretically facilitate a faster and hassle-free setup compared to the current PS VR model, where the numerous cables and time required to set everything up is a common complaint among PS VR owners.

PlayStation VR Set To Receive
With a new VR controller in the works for Sony’s upcoming headset, It’s pretty much assured that we won’t be using PS Move controllers anymore. – Image Source: PlayStation

Nishino also revealed that the new headset will interface with a new, dedicated VR controller that leverages some of the innovations currently featured in the PS5’s DualSense controller, “along with a focus on great ergonomics”. The final piece of information Nishino was kind enough to drop was that the new VR system is still deep in development, and that players should not expect it to launch in 2021, but in the meantime there will still be plenty of new content for current PS VR owners to look forward to regardless of whether they are playing on PS4 or PS5, making special mention of upcoming titles After the Fall, Sniper Elite VR and Humanity.

While the above news has more or less dashed all hopes of the new VR headset going completely wireless, there is still much to be excited about and speculate on here. Will the new VR controller (which Nishino-san has curiously referred to in the singular) actually be a split pair of controllers, like the Oculus Touch, with the ability to detect a player’s finger gestures, or just a modified DualSense? Will the streamlined setup for the new VR headset still utilize a processor unit for sharing the headset wearer’s in-game POV for others to view, just like with the current PS VR, and will it allow passthrough for up to 4K this time? And will the next generation of PS VR still require a camera, like the current PS VR requires the PS4’s PlayStation Camera to function? Hopefully we won’t be waiting until 2022 for answers to these questions, as the launch of Sony’s next-generation VR headset already seems like a “virtual” eternity away.

Epic Games Pays off Players in V-Bucks to Settle Fortnite Lawsuit

Epic Games Pays off Players in V-Bucks to Settle Fortnite Lawsuit

Epic Games has been in the news regarding a lawsuit filed over random loot purchases in both Fortnite and Rocket league. The company would sell random surprise boxes of loot for in-game currency up until 2019, when they switched to X-ray Llamas in Fortnite: Save the World, allowing you to see what you would get before purchasing.

Fans on Twitter seem to be mocking Fortnite specifically, no one seeming really excited or upset about the settlement. Though the game makers have said they believe players should have transparency when making in-game purchases, it seems to have fallen on deaf ears in the comment section since people are still just talking about what skin, mode or item they want released next. Either way, to the people affected, it’s a bonus addition to their in-game currency.

The payment is coming to all players that have purchased a Random Llama or Box before they were discontinued. Although the settlement was only supposed to be for US players, Epic Games has decided to pay all players that bought these items 1000 V-Bucks or Rocket League Credits, stating that though they know some players enjoyed the surprise boxes, they knew others were disappointed.

For players wondering if they qualify for the reimbursement, Epic Games has stated that anyone who purchased these boxes will be automatically sent the correct in-game currency. Normally claimants would have to file a claim to get payment, but the company feels the payment is the right thing to do, and hopes their players agree, so they will send them out across the board over the next few days.

Anyone who purchased more than one Loot Llama might be disappointed to learn they will only receive one payment of 1000 V-bucks, and those that purchased the newer X-ray Llamas won’t receive any. Epic Games has requested that anyone looking for further information should go to http://www.epiclootboxsettlement.com/ to learn more about the class action settlement.

Vampire The Masquerade Bloodlines 2 Delayed Indefinitely

Vampire The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 Delayed Indefinitely

Fans of Vampire The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 were disappointed to hear today that not only is the anticipated sequel being delayed, as Paradox switches development teams, moving away from Hardsuit Labs. The original game was released in 2004 and though the company has been quiet about the sequel, they reached out today on twitter to confirm the game was still coming, despite the challenges they have faced. 

Needless to say, fans of the game are disappointed. Not only have they been waiting more than 17 years for Vampire The Masquerade Bloodlines 2, but they are concerned that the change in companies will destroy the content of the game as a whole. People are already demanding refunds on pre-orders, as they say they ordered based on the talent involved and now they feel misled.

Some gamers are saying the opposite. Final Fantasy VII Remake went through a major change, though in house, and turned out well, so they have the same hopes for Vampire The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2. Though arguments are being made that in the case of FFVII, the game was overseen by the original creators, but here they are passing the game off completely. 

Debating the game’s future is a high priority today on Twitter as fans try to determine its fate, and whether it will be worth it at all with even popular genre site Rely on Horror declaring the game “all but cancelled”. Players are hoping for more information on the long awaited sequel as they are left in a state of panic. Makers of the game made sure to send a heartfelt thanks to Hardsuit Labs for laying the foundation of the game, but in order to see the game come to light, they felt a change was needed, and this ultimately led to more time in development.

Update:

After Paradox switched developers moving away from Hardsuit Labs, announcements have been made that the rejected development team is now facing a great number of layoffs. Former Employees have been taking to Twitter declaring they’ve been laid off, with some asking for new jobs on the social media platform, listing their experience. Some fans are supporting the now unemployed industry workers, but others have just been downright cruel, blaming them entirely for the indefinite delay of the game. According to Twitter, the entire narrative team and some producers have been laid off so far. 

PlayStation Exclusive Days Gone Coming to PC this Spring

PlayStation Exclusive Days Gone Coming to PC this Spring

Less than two years after it first launched, Sony has announced that the open-world action adventure game Days Gone will be released to PC this spring. Fans have taken to the internet to share their opinions on how Sony is handling their exclusives as of lately, and they are less than thrilled.

PlayStation lovers around the globe are blowing up Twitter with sour words. They are claiming that they came to PlayStation specifically for the exclusives and that the platform is pushing its loyal buyers away. Arguments that PC games run much cheaper have been made, and that the lack of exclusive content will leave their fans feeling cheated. 

But other fans are pleased, claiming it’s a great marketing strategy. PlayStation always wants to gain more followers, so releasing a game that has been out for a while to a different platform might entice new players to join their platform when they release the sequel. Let them test out the older game on their current system in hopes that they’ll purchase a PS5 when the sequel is released as an exclusive.

PlayStation is planning to release more exclusives to PC, Days Gone is just the beginning. Bend Studio confirmed the news today via Twitter, telling fans to “Stay tuned for more details.” PlayStation eased its reluctance to release games to PC last year when Horizon Zero Dawn was given a PC home, saying that they believe they have the opportunity to reach a larger audience. Why wouldn’t they take the chance?  

Fans are already speculating what games are next, and they seem excited for the possibilities. Days Gone takes place after a devastating global pandemic, so it seems like just the right fit for PlayStation to release it spring 2021. For players already on PlayStation 5, Sony has updated Days Gone for the platform, delivering a smoother experience and is also part of the 20-game PS Plus Collection made available to PS5 owners with a PS Plus subscription. 

HTC Vive Cosmos Elite (VR) Review 13

HTC Vive Cosmos Elite (VR) Review

My favourite aspect of VR is seeing how every headset improved itself. Every new iteration would use less hardware to bring VR users closer to a futuristic gaming experience. But the HTC Vive Cosmos Elite feels like a headset of yesterday and holds back plenty for a high-end product. Its incredibly high $1400 price is clearly geared towards enthusiasts going into the 2020’s. But even for the most experienced VR user, it’s tricky to recommend the HTC Vive Cosmos Elite. Bigger flaws come from HTC sticking way too closely to its first form in 2016 and starts to hinder gameplay. The Elite takes a huge step up in pricing, but a steps back on what it should offer out of the box.

By not changing much, the Elite ironically keeps all of its problems. From an outdated tracking system to the oversized wands which feel less interactive in comparison to other controllers in the 2020’s. A number of complicated setup glitches and maintenance also make the headset a pain to keep in the long run. Much of its wasted potential comes from HTC’s decision to stay the same. Apart from its high-resolution display, the HTC Vive Cosmos Elite lacks inside-out tracking or proper controller haptics (something universally important in grabbing VR objects or finger-based actions). Its upgraded sensors can still lose hands and throw players off their original positions frequently inside. But this is just the tip of the fake iceberg for users once they jump into their first game.

HTC still deserves credit for pushing the VR medium forward with Oculus since 2016, offering users a premium alternative to access a growing list of experiences. Like the Rift, the HTC Vive would ride the same wave of troubles in its first release. From a clunky form factor to problematic sensors and the infamous PC barrier, HTC’s first attempt into VR was a great opportunity to highlight the technology’s problems. At the time, users were still able to enjoy a PCVR experience complete with SteamVR integration and room scale immersion. Years later, most companies would still take notes from HTC. But the company has since been outpaced by competitors. Inside-out tracking would eliminate sensors and give users little to no setup. Smaller controllers would add haptic sensors to track fingers and deepen immersion. Of course, VR’s biggest evolution came from cutting the wires completely through technologies like the Quest. Its PCVR experience would be reduced to a single USB-C cable to any gaming computer (and that’s a great thing). In 2021, VR should be at its most advanced, comfortable and accessible form to date.

But HTC Vive Cosmos Elite refuses to take these necessary steps. As a result, its own top-of-the-line headset suffers without the solutions which made VR better. This starts with the same four-year-old setup which feels as frustrating as ever. Plug-and-play still comes with a bonus unplug-and-retry step to really test your patience. Of course, all of it requires the Elite headset, Base Station 1, Base Station 2, Wand 1 and Wand 2 to be set up one-by-one. I followed the steps through HTC’s own Viveport app to calibrate each piece, only for the Wands to be unrecognized. My impression was wearing down from a handful of attempts at plugging the micro usb cable to my computer until it worked. This is only part of the HTC Vive Cosmos Elite‘s reliance on cables. I was surprised to find a large amount of included wires and other smaller accessories. But almost every piece was essential in tethering my Elite for the room scale experience. Thankfully, regular users would only need to endure this once and can jump into VR without a hitch.

Here’s where the Elite Cosmos falls a step behind other 2020 headsets. The Oculus Quest and Quest 2 are standalone headsets, but also use their wireless features to reduce the PCVR process to less than 30 seconds. It’s as good as plugging in a single Link cable. HTC’s headset doesn’t directly connect. For some awful reason, the Elite headset requires its own power brick which requires both a DisplayPort and free USB port. Adding to the mess includes sparing another USB port and additional power outlets for two Base stations. All this hardware amounts to the same six degrees of freedom (6DoF) which could have been built into the headset. This is clearly a unit which is made to stay and becomes a nightmare for enthusiasts, showfloor presenters and other staff looking to take the HTC Vive Elite Cosmos with them. Rooms will inevitably look like a Prometheus ship interior with a number of extra cables covering the floors and walls.

HTC Vive Cosmos Elite (VR) Review
Creed: Rise to Glory – Survios

HTC’s flagship headset somehow includes cameras to let VR users see in the real world. Like the Oculus Passthrough, dual front and side cameras activate by pressing the wand’s system button twice. It would only be useful if the HTC Vive Cosmos Elite didn’t already let users flip the goggles up to instantly see their surroundings. Surprisingly, the door hinge is a new and welcome addition which gives VR players a convenient pause without taking the entire headset off. But enthusiasts would quickly be frustrated at the Elite Cosmos‘ wasted potential to make the cameras track. This is actually part of the Elite Cosmos‘ pipeline of faceplates which make the headset somewhat modular. But the company hasn’t actively made an effort to create an inside-out faceplate for the Elite, while more accessories would only stretch the budget for owners.

Some frustrations seem to pay off when the HTC Vive Cosmos Elite boots up. Users expecting a solid PCVR experience will get it. The headset now packs one of its crispiest screens for each eye at 1440 by 1700 pixels. 2K is a slight upgrade from the Vive Pro‘s own lens. Added hardware acceleration and a new lens material keep pictures looking incredibly vibrant and crisp. For what the displays are worth, HTC has done a good job in eliminating a screen-door effect which made early VR games grainy and pixelated. Characters, environments and all types of surfaces in VR are as smooth as they should even when viewed up close (more on this later). The original 2016 Vive also took the charge for its 90Hz refresh rate. I’m happy to acknowledge HTC kept the same 90Hz, giving every PCVR title an extra fps boost and making experiences fast and smooth. This keeps the Elite as modern as other headsets, including Quest 2 which recently made the jump to higher refresh rates.

HTC Vive Cosmos Elite (VR) Review
Skybox VR Video Player (film: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) – Source Studio

The difference from the standard 75Hz to 90Hz is immediately noticeable with Elite users receiving less juttering, input lag and a lifelike motion when interacting with characters. One of its highlights came from simply watching a movie in Skybox VR‘s theatre. It’s one of my favourite experiences which filled a Friday void during quarantine. I admit the Elite‘s top-notch display made it all the more realistic. Details like leather seat wrinkles, fuzzy (sticky) floors and projector rays were much more solid. More importantly, the 2K resolution helped make my screening of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service a real treat. The displays do a great job of balancing out the 3D theatre with a 1080p film, which stayed sharp over the colossal silver screen.

As of writing this review, HTC Vive Cosmos Elite easily packs one of the nicest displays on the market, until it’s held back by some quality of life flaws. That didn’t stop me from admiring some upscaled graphics which were strong in my stress-test of Half-Life: Alyx. Right away, I could see stitches off the clothing left on zombies. Lights bloomed with a ray-tracing style effect and made colors moodier thanks to the Elite‘s fine colour tuning. Even on a mix of medium to high settings, the headset still manages to amplify the best looking details in VR graphics. It’s made better with some smooth rendering at 90Hz and gives users a chance to study more of their surroundings without ghosting effects. Even animated games like Job Simulator and Budget Cuts 2: Mission Insolvency benefitted from sharper upscaling the Elite gives off at 2K. Edges are noticeably more refined and objects stand out more when you count in the stereoscopic effect. As a result, depth perception feels natural for users when they glance at objects or look over distances. The colours, textures and effects can all be enhanced by users too. The headset’s SteamVR settings can let you crank up the dynamic resolution above 2K and even towards 4K territory depending on PC hardware. These settings help give the Elite a much-needed future proofing.

HTC Vive Cosmos Elite (VR) Review
Half-Life: Alyx – Valve Corporation

There were still a few hardware features which make the HTC Vive Cosmos Elite a comfortable extension for years to come. Its own halo strap was a cozy choice for HTC and gives users the full control over their fit. This is lined with a thick padding which hugs the scalp, making longer VR sessions more bearable. By turning the click dial, users can also tighten the fit immediately or release pressure if a headache rises. Luckily, the headset’s strap is adapted directly from their popular Cosmos Elite Strap and gives users the satisfaction of security. This comes with a return of built-in headphones, making the Cosmos Elite more of an all-in-one unit. In my testing, I absolutely loved the clear audio which packed a bass driver. Gunshots, boxing punches and even the virtual movie theatre were surrounding me to some effective degrees with proper sound. Users will find the Elite‘s sound at their best in titles like Beat Saber and Pistol Whip where songs fill the world. It’s a more contained audio experience which takes notes from the very first Oculus Rift and ensures privacy, noise cancellation and immersive bliss.

The HTC Vive Cosmos Elite‘s snug fit doesn’t save it from some blurring and readjusting. It’s frustrating to be moving with the halo strap, occasionally turning it around my head and offsetting visuals. Specifically, both the left and right lens are focused in giving clear picture in the middle. This requires users to adjust their headset for that “sweet spot” with clear picture to really enjoy 2K resolution. But unfortunately, VR’s dependency on moving meant I had to fix my headset in the middle of gameplay more often than usual. In VR terms, it broke the immersion and interrupted my flow. Of course, the frequency of fixing the fit is subjective. I can’t speak for every user who might be lucky enough to not relate to this. But I also found some more comfort out of the Cosmos Elite‘s built-in IPD (inter pupillary distance) slider. IPD slides each lens to line up with your eyes. For HTC, it’s as simple as turning a dial and makes it much more accessible when switching users.

HTC Vive Cosmos Elite (VR) Review
Beat Saber – Beat Games

Motion-driven games are VR’s bread and butter. This makes the staple wands of the HTC Vive Cosmos Elite a deciding factor for users and becomes more of a miss than a hit. HTC’s consistency can be respected, but the wands are still old and problematic as ever. Its oversized handles feel more mechanical and less of an extension for hands in VR. I much prefer the Oculus Touch controllers, which made use of a sensitive trigger, thumb and grip button naturally. Sadly, HTC misses out on an opportunity to upgrade their controllers for a more hands-on design. The wands do offer a slight redemption for games where players are fighting. Games like Creed: Rise to Glory might have felt better by gripping the wands and throwing straighter punches. Beat Saber became a real treat with the baton-style controllers, as they immediately felt like sword grips.

But this is as far as the HTC Vive Cosmos Elite‘s wands can go for advantages. They’re easily the worst VR controllers I’ve ever used and I don’t recommend these over Valve’s more tactile Index controllers or Oculus Touch. I say this with my experiences over the Wand’s grips. VR games normally rely on sensitive and haptic grip buttons which react to users closing their hands. HTC goes against this core feature by having strong grip buttons which feel like they’re never meant to be clicked. They offer a resistance which makes gripping objects incredibly exhausting. In VR, this actually made it physically difficult to play shooters like Hot Dogs, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades which needed me to constantly grip items. Instead, weapons would drop after my tired hands let go. Picking up other items including bullets, attachments and magazines would be a struggle, with my hands summoning the strength of Odin to keep the grip buttons down for minutes at a time. Sadly, the Elite‘s wands made it a chore to play Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond with clunky mapping. Most VR games work around this by making the triggers a grip button. But this feels incredibly awkward in cases where the trigger is also used to fire weapons. It’s clunkier when paired with the mono-directional touchpad. Things can easily be picked up or dropped with a haptic grip (as it should be). But HTC’s hard-to-use side buttons complicate even this simple action. Some games including Pistol Whip anticipated this and still gave me an enjoyable experience by keeping a weapon glued to my hand at all times.

HTC Vive Cosmos Elite (VR) Review
Job Simulator: The 2050 Archives – Owlchemy Labs

The lack of separate A/B/X/Y buttons like Oculus Touch turn HTC’s wands into a guessing game. This was especially a problem with Half-Life: Alyx, where HTC’s confusing and awkward controls resulted in even more disturbing deaths by headcrabs. The incredibly flat shape of the wands also create edges which feel uncomfortable over time. I will admit that the rubbery matte finish warms up with your hands for a natural grip. Over time, this helps the controllers feel more like a natural part (only ever so slightly). The controllers are a disappointing aspect which turn off almost half of VR experiences for players. Personally, I wasn’t a fan of the system and pause buttons which sit on each controller’s faces. Because the design is so one-dimensional, it can lead to all sorts of palms pressing them. It was evident for my favourite games including Beat Saber, where my palm would accidentally mash the system button and pause everything. HTC stuck to its consistency which includes having the system button right under tight palms. On a bright side, each controller includes battery indicators under VR. They also contain some pretty long lasting batteries which can be recharged with a micro usb cable.

I respect HTC’s goal for symmetry with both controllers. It’s easily another pain point since users can never tell which one is the right or left one. Here’s where other companies designed specific left and right controllers. For HTC Vive Cosmos Elite users, this starts to be an inconvenience when they put on the safety wrist straps, enter a game and find out their hands are reversed. Things only get more confusing without an R or L label on each controller. On symmetry, I can’t say the same for the Elite‘s seemingly-upgraded base stations. Without inside-out tracking, players are facing an older issue from 2016; hands phasing in and out. It’s a frequent and annoying issue which adds to the Elite‘s list. The base stations are meant to cover entire rooms from a vantage point. I had no problems having my headset tracked when I walked around my own area in this setup. But when one hand was directly covering another, only the visible wand would be functional. This highlighted the HTC Vive Cosmos Elite‘s need for inside-out tracking, which takes care of positional movement and controllers more precisely. The base stations would also lose my controllers when I was crouched. Even if the base stations were at waist-level, they have hard times tracking in situations where players are crawling, crouching their way through halls or sitting on the floor.

The HTC Vive Cosmos Elite does less to impress at over $1400. VR users deserve the same upgrades companies have adopted across the years, but at even lower costs. Enthusiasts also will feel held back by smaller additions in some parts and more problems which have plagued HTC’s first headset. Steps were taken to improve its VR screen, which translates well across new and old games. A fair amount of comfort in the halo strap keep users in VR for much longer in comparison to other headsets. I admit to using the flip-up feature more than usual, until it became an essential feature I hope to see in more VR models. It keeps the basic capability of running the highest-end PCVR games while awkward controls and frequent hardware interruptions ruin gameplay. HTC has reserved inside-out tracking for its cheaper headsets; a sign enthusiasts aren’t getting everything they should be out of the company’s biggest version yet. Sadly, the HTC Vive Elite Cosmos feels like a stubborn aging system with a fresh coat of paint.

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Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & The Secret Fairy

As a newcomer to the Atelier franchise, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Atelier Ryza 2 aside from the advertised elements of alchemy and exploration. The series has been around since 1997 in Japan, or 2004 for English audiences, but this was my first experience dipping a toe into its waters. What I found was a charming and chill JRPG, though nothing earth-shattering.

Players take on the role of Riesalin “Ryza” Stout, an alchemist from a small island who is called to the capital city of Ashram-am Baird. Three years prior, in the original game, she had a grand adventure with her friends back home on Kurken Island (as the game will repeatedly remind you), and now she’s seeking new knowledge in the big city and catching up with those old companions.

I was struck early on by the light and breezy feel of the game. With Ryza visiting a new city and reuniting with old friends, exploring new environments and honing her skills, it felt somewhat like a summer vacation in the first few hours. This is enhanced by bright, idyllic environments and a surprisingly vibrant score. The battle music, in particular, was invigorating. The Switch version isn’t as bright and shiny as the PlayStation 4 or PC ports, but I think this aesthetic serves the atmosphere better than ultra-polished 4K HD.

Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & The Secret Fairy
Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy – KOEI TECMO

At its simplest level, the game typically has you exploring the wilderness and battling monsters for crafting components, then returning to Ryza’s atelier to craft new or enhanced items. These improvements will allow you to reach new areas, harvest new sources, fight tougher enemies, and earn better components for better crafting, thus enabling you to move on with the main narrative. Story objectives and random quests keep things interesting, as well as field actions like diving. Exploration is aided by a relatively simple fast-travel method, mitigating more tedious fetch-quest elements.

The real standout feature is the ruin exploration. There are a smattering of ruins which Ryza will explore throughout the story. At first these seem like new, exotic gathering locations, but there are puzzles and mysteries within to solve. Ryza has to gather clues scattered throughout the dungeon and piece them together in order to earn new alchemy recipes, gain large sums of SP for unlocking those recipes, and solve the dungeon’s mysteries.

Speaking of recipes, the crafting system can be as in-depth or easy-going as you wish. Recipes are unlocked from a Skill Tree using SP, which is mainly earned from crafting or exploring ruins. SP can also unlock bonuses to gathering or crafting results, or unlock other features. Once an item’s recipe is purchased and the materials gathered, you can simply automate the ingredient selection and let the game do the work for you, or micromanage the best components and further enhance the final product to meet your specific desires. You can make weapons that excel at slaying certain monster types, tools that produce better yields, or enhance your healing items.

Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & The Secret Fairy 1
Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy – KOEI TECMO

Another key component is the battle system, as with any JRPG with its salt. Atelier Ryza 2 has a fun, active engine that stayed fresh throughout. Participants wait their turn to act, then can use standard physical attacks or special commands. Commands cost AP, which is earned by using standard attacks, guarding with precise timing, or other strategic moves. As battles go on, the party’s Tactics Level will increase, allowing them to store more AP and unleash bigger combos. You can also switch between party members on the fly, though I didn’t stray far from Ryza.

One major complaint, however, is the healing method. First, a character must first equip a healing item, such as the early recipe Grass Beans, from the menu. These items are classified as Core Items, and require a Core Charge (CC) to use in battle. How do you get core charges? By attacking to earn AP, then spending that AP to use a skill, thus generating a CC. In other words, you can’t simply heal an ally when they’re in dire need—first you must generate two different resources, and hope they don’t die along the way. Alternately, an Item Rush can be used when it’s not the active player’s turn, but it costs 10 AP to use. It’s a needlessly obtuse system in a genre where healing is typically handled with a simple consumable item or magic spell.

Beyond this wrinkle, however, managing the different resources and building combos in battle is fun, almost like a form of alchemy in itself. Use combos to generate AP, spend AP to use skills and build your Tactics Level, enabling bigger combos and enhanced versions of skills. It stays stimulating through random battles but shines in boss fights, where you truly get to build that Tactics Level and go all-out. Just keep an eye on your allies’ HP, as their AI can be somewhat wanting.

Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & The Secret Fairy 2
Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy – KOEI TECMO

In terms of narrative, Atelier Ryza 2‘s light tone makes for a refreshing experience but a somewhat bland story. There are a lot of familiar tropes and the dialog often feels padded with pleasantries. It’s nice to have predominately lower stakes and a “everyday life” atmosphere for a change, compared to the genre’s typical “save the world from a would-be god” theatrics. But after a while cutscenes and conversations felt like a drag, especially if you enter an area and set off a couple different scenes at once. At its core, it’s a fairly typical narrative for an anime-styled JRPG, with the usual conventions like standard personality types, stock expressions, and an occasional objectifying camera angle.



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