A Short Hike – Review (PC)

If I am to be honest, I am a little burned out of playing video games. I currently have no deadlines on when I need to publish things and I still find myself dropping games after a few play sessions. The only one that I have stuck with in recent memory is Marvel’s Spiderman (In all fairness, it was amazing). I do not know if I can contribute this development to working longer hours than I am used to or just being older but games just do not hold my attention like they used to. Enter A Short Hike by developer adamgryu , a little indie game that I picked up on the sole fact that it was free. I never really intended to play it just like all of the other free games that I never really intended to play, but between another rabbit hole of youtube content and staring at a blank wall I decided to give it a shot. Man oh man am I glad that I did.

A Short Hike is just as the name implies as you play an anthropomorphic bird, Claire, who is out on a vacation with her Aunt May to the beautiful and picturesque Hawk Peak Provincial Park. She wakes up after arriving at the camping spot only to realize that her phone does not have reception. She is expecting an important call later on and the only way she is going to receive it is if she goes on a short hike to the top of Hawk Peak. From the moment you take control of Claire, you have the freedom to do whatever you want. The ultimate goal is to climb to the summit of Hawk Peak, but the game does not force you to that goal. You come across a host of different characters during your time camping. From the fisherman who teaches you the calming nature of fishing, to the climbers club that trains you how to get to the top of the mountain faster, everyone here seems to be enjoying there time and they all have interesting things to say. Because of this I found myself going out of my way to talk to every character to see if there was anything that I could do for them.

I may have spent a little to much time searching for collectibles in order to trade for other collectibles that I might need. In my play through I never found a use for the fish I was collecting, or beat a certian hiker in a foot race even though I had at least 6 golden feathers, but I still found this weird joy in doing the activities. I also played about an hour of beachstickball until I was able to get the 20+ hits because I was that determined. The game found subtle ways to make me want to participate in its activities beyond the rewards I would get from them. I ended up doing it because Claire and I were on the same journey of relaxation.

Aside from the smaller activities your goal is to get to the top of the mountain, and you accomplish this by collecting feathers. The feathers act as your stamina gauge and dictate how long you can climb as well as how long you can glide, with you using one ever time you flap your wings. The gauge refills when you touch the ground so if you mess up a climb you can normally reset and try again without much fuss. That being said when you get closer to the peak of the mountain it does get colder and that will effect your feathers. It seems like you only need 7 feathers to get to the top and I finished my game with 11. Once you reach the top the game will trigger a cut scene that I will not spoil here, but I will say that it hit me straight in the feels. And once that is done you will be able to glide down while taking in an awe inspiring aerial view of your adventure.

I went into A Short Hike looking for something to take away my repetitive boredom and left it feeling shockingly relaxed. Right from the start you and Claire are along for this ride together and it is your decision how she spends her time at Hawk Peak. The game does not take itself too seriously nor does it make you feel like you have to accomplish anything at all. A Short Hike is a game designed to get you lost in its characters and organic story telling, and it leaves the rest up to you.

A Short Hike is available on Steam for $7.99

Full Metal Furies – Review (PC)

The beat’em up genre is one that has always been challenging yet enjoyable. From Double Dragon to Streets of Rage and even Scott Pilgrim vs The World, being able to clear out a screen full of enemies is oddly satisfying. Following in the footsteps of those amazing games comes Full Metal Furies by Cellar Door Games.  In Full Metal Furies you control two of four playable characters (Yes I did say two). With the Sniper class you have the ability to take out ranged targets but you can’t move when you fire. This puts you as a disadvantage with quick enemies and makes  you think about when you want to attempt to attack. The Tank uses a giant shield in order to block attacks and a dash ability to get closer to her targets. The Engineer does high damage with her pistol and has a turret that reminded me of Borderlands. However, you can’t do any melee damage. The Fighter uses a giant hammer that she swings around wildly. These unique play styles would make for great game play by itself but the kicker here is that when you play single player you control two characters at the same time. 

In combat you are tasked with managing your own attacks and making sure you counter your opponents with the right skills. Each hero is color coded and the enemies will have shields that will match those colors. What this means for game play is that you will not be able to burn through levels with just one character. You are going to have to make sure you are switching between characters in order to destroy shields and deal damage. Levels are a little on the short side, and the over world map reminds me of something out of Castle Crashers but this adds to the accessibility of the game. The level structure makes for the perfect Nintendo Switch experience.

The story is almost your standard affair at this point. Beings are fighting over power and your characters are stuck in the middle. Go into Full Metal Furies expecting lots of jokes and wise cracks. Enemies are over the top and it is very easy to get surrounded in this game. Placement is everything and if you are not careful you will get backed into a corner and knocked out before you know it. Believe me, it happened to me more than I would care to admit. The thing that ended up working for me was finding two characters that worked together, the Sniper and the Figher, and using them to balance each other out. While using the Fighter I would create distance between me and my target and then switch over to the Sniper in order to pick off my targets at a distance. Having to balance two different characters with two separate fighting styles in the same fight is stressful  at first but becomes second nature with practice.

Throughout the game you will collect gold that you can spend on upgrades to skills for each character and beating bosses will allow you to get modifiers that changes the way a skill works for that character. Each upgrade has funny and cheeky text that goes along with it that adds to the life of the world that the game takes place in. In fact, my only real complaint on this game would have to be the random difficulty spikes. Since the switching system is something you have to get used to, you might find yourself dying over and over again due to punishing enemies. This is something I eventually got over until the game decided to smack me down again later on. The jarring change in difficulty made for choppy game play at times and took me right out of the fun the game supplies in droves. 

Over all Full Metal Furies is an amazing experience and one I can’t wait to come to systems like the Nintendo Switch. Its bite size game play is perfect for a console you can pick up and take with you. Pick up Full Metal Furies is you are into fast paced game play with interesting systems and a light but slightly hilarious narrative. 

Full Metal Furies is available on Steam for $19.99

Divinity Original Sin II – Review (PC)

Back in the PS2 era of gaming there was a little known rpg called Champions of Norrath. By “little known” I mean that I played it with my brothers but no one else knew what I was talking about. They were all tied up with Kingdom Hearts II or whatever. In Champions of Norrath you are tasked with freeing the land of Norrath from the tyranny of the demon/monster Innoruuk. While traveling through Norrath my tiny 10 year old self was blown away by the level of detail and options that I was able to put into my character. This was the first time I came across Skill Trees and actual Character Progression. It was in this game the I started to see all the hype behind table top games. Being sucked into a character is easier when I feel like I have had a hand in molding how that character reacts to the world. It was this feeling within me that got amplified with the release of Divinity Origin Sin II.

I don’t know why I missed the first Divinity game but I knew when I saw Divinity II in action that I had to be apart of that world. Lets for one second forget about all the praise the game has gotten. Ignore all the spectacular things you have heard about this game. At its core, Divinity Original Sin II is about one thing, interaction. This first presented it self in the games opening moments. You, as a character and slave, are on a ship being transported to an island for those who use Source Magic. The problem with Source magic is that it attracts creatures that feed on its power, thus you and several others like you have been enslaved in order to be cleansed of this disease. 

While on the boat things don’t going quite according to plan as a powerful Source user damages the vessel. From this point on the choices you make are your own. Because I created an elf I had the ability to eat body parts of the dead an see visions, usually of their last moments alive. This changed the way I solved quest as I was always looking for something to eat in order to gain clues. On my quest I came across several locked doors. I turned to find clues to where keys could possibly be, but when I couldn’t find anything I decided to knock the door down with my weapon. In any other game I would have been swatting at the door in vein, not this one. It took no time for me to break down the door with my weapon.

With the door destroyed so too was my thought process on how this world was supposed to work. I tried the same strategy with treasure chest to varying degrees of success. I found that the best way to dispatch with enemies was to sneak between their lines of sight and make a beeline for the strongest one. This put the others into a small state of confusion as they seem to be processing what just happened. Taking away their time to prepare for the battle by getting into a defensive formation turned the tide of battle my way a lot. I learned that fire was my most powerful ally and my most loathe foe. I learned to plan out every avenue of attack and not to be afraid of trying something crazy. During a rescue mission I teleported the person I was trying to save out of his prison only for him to be killed by his jailer. I scrapped that idea entirely and had to try something new. This is the mindset that D:OS II injects into your brain, one of infinite possibilities. 

The story is your classic fantasy affair with a multiplayer twist if you want it. After killing or talking your way to freedom you are tasked with looking for the powerful Source user who trashed your ship in the beginning. However, the main story wasn’t what drew me into the world I was playing in. What really got to me what they depth of the NPC’s around me. Not only did they all have their own lives, dreams, and secrets but they also had unique personalities and responded differently to you depending on who you were playing as. D:OS II has a underline racism running through it with other characters being violent to races they deem are less than. There was a woman I met very early on who wouldn’t say anything to me because I was a elf. I also had an interesting conversation with a kid who thought I killed people and ate them for fun. I mean, I do. Sometimes. But this kid didn’t need to know about what my elf did in his spare time. 

Combat is a beautiful and frustrating process. On the one hand you can enter a fight doing everything right and end up destroying all the opposition with minimal effort. On the other hand I have entered fights I didn’t even know were there by triggering traps that I didn’t see coming in order to defend myself against waves of monsters I wasn’t prepared for. Live by the sword I suppose. In this game I learned just how important save scumming is. If I even sneezed the wrong way I would reload and earlier save. 

If I had to give the game any criticism it would have to be the map and direction system. While playing an open world like Skyrim it would seem like getting lost would happen all the time. However, I always seemed to know where I was going and how I was going to get there. Quest were laid out and I never got frustrated. Divinity Original Sin II is another story all together. I frequently get lost while playing. I get it, it is apart of the experience. When I was younger I wouldn’t have minded playing four hours and only progressing one mission because I seemed to just be walking in circles. As an adult with limited time this sort of thing erks me to no end. I would like to know exactly where I’m going and where I want to go next. Maybe put the mindless exploration in a harder difficulty. I’m not saying it doesn’t deserve a place in the game, what I’m saying is I don’t have the time I used to devote to getting lost. 

If you have not played Divinity Original Sin II I can not recommend it enough. If you want a deeply involving game that will force you to think outside the box when it comes to combat, looting, mission, interactions, and a whole host of other features than this is the game for you.

Divinity Original Sin II is available on Steam for $44.99