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Ratchet & Clank - PlayStation 4
Ratchet & Clank - PlayStation 4
Price: $38.99
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Remake That Isn't Slowed Down by a Lot, May 28, 2016
Ratchet and Clank first debuted in 2002 and it became a classic almost overnight. Years later the original game still plays really well. The original Ratchet and Clank just managed to age incredibly well (so did its sequels). So a remake that does more than give it a facelift seems unnecessary. The remake came in anticipation of the movie, however, and that also makes it seem like some kind of gimmick. Except... it's not. Ratchet and Clank on the Playstation 4 just might be the greatest video game remake I've ever played to date. Everything about it is amazing. Not only has it been given a great facelift, but there's nothing about this that's lazy. Plus, it's a lot better than watching the movie.

The original game began with a ship crashing on Veldin and that's how Ratchet and Clank met. It also showed that Ratchet and Clank didn't necessarily always get along. The remake, to keep in step with the movie, makes them closer to friends from the get go. This is because the remake begins with Ratchet dreaming of being a space ranger. And to do that he has to go through their training course. While I prefer the setup to the original, this one isn't really so bad. The story is also framed as Captain Qwark telling it. And the game is absolutely shameless at making fun of itself and breaking the first wall. Characters have lines like, "See you in the next remake!" or jokes about how it's a game based off a movie that's based off another game. These are completely shameless, but it completely matches with the tone of the game. Rest assured, though, that the original game is here. You'll recognize various locations, jokes and enemies. Some of them are completely given a makeover but they don't look unfamiliar at all. This game takes a lot of care with the assets it has. If any other developer is thinking of remaking a PS2 game from the ground up for the current generation of systems this is the way to do it.

Ratchet and Clank has also been given a lot of updates from future games in the series to help modernize it. The original game, for example, had a set number of hit points, but this one utilizes a level up system with increasing HP. As you kill enemies you'll get experience and level up and be able to take more hits. This makes the game far more accessible than the original... but that doesn't mean the game is actually that much easier. This game is pretty challenging. You'll have various sets of weapons to take into battle and kill your enemies with, but they hit back just as hard and come in several waves with a lot of firepower of their own. At the heart of combat Ratchet and Clank is a platformer and expects a lot of precision from the player. That is to say that there isn't a lot coming at you in battle that you can't dodge or can't see coming. There is, however, a lot coming at you in combat. Ratchet and Clank isn't a very forgiving game about these things either. Ratchet and Clank is hard but it isn't exactly unfair. You just need to figure out how to handle a situation.

Thankfully death isn't met with harsh punishments. When you die you usually start at the firefight you were engaged in to begin with. The game is constantly checkpointing. You are rarely ever pushed back too far.

There are lots of weapons in the game. Most of the stuff from the original game returns, but you also have weapons from other games in the series such as the Sheepinator or Mr. Zirkon. These are great moments. If there was anything that might not stick well it's that this remake doesn't opt to really introduce anything new. If the developers were going to put in the same stuff from the sequels into the remake they certainly could've given us more than just a single new weapon. That being said, what's here makes the game far bigger than original while still retaining the goodness of the original to begin with.

The game has tweaks made to also streamline the experience. Shooting has been improved. In the original game you aimed with the shoulder but shot with the square button. Here you simply aim with the right analog stick and shoot accordingly. It makes aiming feel more in control for the player.

The story is also peppered with cutscenes. Some are drawn directly from the movie, but it also has its own newly animated cutscenes as well. And they're all gorgeous. Ratchet and Clank on the PS4 is one of the most stylistically appealing games out there. It's not just colorful and vibrant but holds true to the aesthetic set for the games that came before it. Ratchet and Clank looks cinematic in its appeal. As well it should seeing as how this is meant to be a companion to the movie. It's a glorious looking game. The orchestral soundtrack is also really good as well, giving a sense of adventure. Although the original game had a masterful soundtrack that reinforced the idea of tech and gadgetry (and is sorely missed here) at least the new orchestral score doesn't sound bad. There are even some themes that are remixed. The feeling here is that you're going on an epic adventure and you certainly are.

All this being said, Ratchet and Clank doesn't actually play that different from it's original. It's been given a facelift but the heart and soul hasn't been forgotten at all. The way the game functions and plays feels like Ratchet and Clank. The original voice cast is back (all of them) and the environments are designed to evoke memories of the past but given a nice shine to them. But none of this is dress up just to be dress up. The game is operating on a new and more powerful system and it takes advantage of that. Most developers would've been lazy about it and just increased the resolution and frame rate to compensate, but instead Insomniac Games remade the entire thing from the ground up. Certainly it's to go with the movie, but the experience still incorporates everything from the original and the game is still a lengthy adventure as a result... and for a relatively cheap price.

This doesn't mean everything about Ratchet and Clank is absolutely perfect. For starters, the game can, at times, feel overstuffed. Like the movie it's a companion to there's sometimes too much. There isn't much reason for Nefarious to be here other than to provide service to fans who played the games he was featured in. He's one of the most popular villains but including him in the game doesn't feel like it's necessary. At least he's put to much better use in the game than he is in the movie that just recently came out, but it still stands that in an attempt to stuff in as much nostalgia as they could, there wasn't always a good use for it. The same can be said for some of the weapons. They're great call outs but not always necessary. On the other hand, bringing those weapons doesn't seem to detract from the game. Dr. Nefarious was always a more interesting villain than Chairman Drek and if there was one thing that the remake would've benefited from it would've been to make Chairman Drek a far less forgettable villain. It doesn't and he's outshined by Dr. Nefarious instead... in a story that he doesn't necessarily have a lot of cause to be in.

Yet the game still does what it can with what it has and it's completely serviceable. In a sense including Dr. Nefarious isn't a bad idea, it just doesn't always feel like it's for the right reasons. But it's hard to tell if this is a mistake because of the movie the game accompanies or not. That being said, the gameplay moments involving Dr. Nefarious are worthwhile. The inclusion of Dr. Nefarious isn't bad, it just doesn't feel necessary.

All that said, though, it doesn't actually take away from the game that much. Everything you do throughout is exciting, and it's accompanied by a music score that really compliments the experience. But what makes this remake so good is that it actually transcends the original, even with the inclusion of Dr. Nefarious. It's still a fleshed out story with characters and jokes that are worthwhile. The original Ratchet and Clank in 2002 was a great game. It still is. This one, however, plays better and offers more story. Sure Dr. Nefarious might seem like a bit much, but at the very least the game is still worth the time to play with all it adds to the experience that don't take away from the overall experience. If you haven't had a chance to play Ratchet and Clank on the PS4, it would be a good time to do so.

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End - PlayStation 4
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End - PlayStation 4
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fantastic Close to One of Gaming's Best Adventure Series, May 28, 2016
I'm having a tough time deciding how much I like Uncharted 4. On one hand it's got one of the strongest narratives and does some of the best storytelling the video game medium has seen for a AAA game. It's got great characters that are well developed and spends a lot of time really diving into its themes and challenging the perception we have of the characters. On the other hand, while it's a really fun game to play there are some aspects to it that can feel overdeveloped. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but these aspects can affect gameplay. That being said, however, Uncharted 4 is a good game. One of the best outings for Nathan Drake you'll find and one of the best stories the series has. If this is truly the last Uncharted game, the series has definitely gone out with a bang.

The game takes place several years after the third installment. We see Nathan Drake adjusting to a "normal" life. He has a salvaging job, is married to Elena (our heroine from the first three games) and doesn't really go on a ton of adventures anymore. It's clear that Nathan Drake misses the thrill of adventure. All of that changes when his brother, Sam, who was presumed to be dead, shows up needing his help. In order to help his brother, Nathan is going to have to go after the treasure of an old pirate named Avery.

As with other Uncharted games, the story on the surface of Uncharted 4 is a relatively simple one, but the depth and meaning come through in the characters and their motivations. Uncharted 3 begged the question as to whether Nathan Drake was sane for enjoying all of this thrill seeking. Thrill seeking that, as he comes to learn, has a cost when he nearly gets his friends killed. Uncharted 4 dives deeper into this theme and asks, what's more important to Nathan Drake. The people he loves or the thrill of adventure? The third game is largely about his relationship with Sully, but here it challenges his relationship with every main protagonist. Is Nate going after Avery's treasure to save his brother or is he actually going for the thrill? The game decides it's going to take a deep dive into just who Nathan Drake is and what's important to him. And while Uncharted may be going in a more serious direction it doesn't abandon its pulp fictional roots to do it. That doesn't mean that the changes is entirely perfect all the time. There isn't nearly as much clever or witty dialog present here. Uncharted 4 has very strong moments, but the game is much lighter on humor than the first three games. Some of it feels like an attempt to make Uncharted darker and more serious. The good news is that while the game isn't quite as funny as the first three, it still prefers to take its characters seriously in the situations they're in.

The story is told through a lot of gameplay and cinematic cutscenes. Uncharted 4 is definitely the most gorgeous game I've ever seen. The way the characters move is almost lifelike. There are also a lot of colorful vibrant places throughout the game. Animations move with a lot of fluidity and it's surprising that throughout all of this Uncharted 4 doesn't buckle under its own weight. It's also accompanied by a great music score. While I miss Nate's typical theme from the first three game, the new arrangement of it is still really good.

There are a couple of moments where Uncharted 4 is nostalgic for the previous three games. While I don't mind references or bringing back memories of the first three games, Uncharted 4 does a lot of it from time to time. It seems done in an attempt to say goodbye to Uncharted by reminding us of all the places we've been to. It's tasteful, at least, it just feels overbearing at times just how much the game insists on reminding us of the previous adventures instead of getting on with its own. When it is moving forward, though, it's brilliant at doing so. The story keeps going, only slowing down to build character. The game also seamlessly blends its cinematics into its gameplay.

The Uncharted games have always been simple experiences in terms of gameplay. The best trick the Uncharted series ever pulled was blending various gameplay elements from other game franchises and creating its own through that. Uncharted 4 brings back as much familiar stuff as possible. You pick up two types of weapons. Sidearms and rifles. Sidearms are guns like pistols and revolvers while rifles are your assault rifles and shotguns. You'll engage in several shootouts where you can take cover and pop up to shoot every now and then. You can also toss grenades and move from cover to cover as your enemies either destroy your cover or flush you out by tossing grenades of their own. This formula has worked for Uncharted for a while and it improved significantly as each game moved forward. But the Uncharted series isn't just about gunfights. From time to time you get a break from the action and you're able to catch your breath and either solve a puzzle or climb up mountains and walls in the climbing sections. You'll also find yourself jumping to other planess. A lot. You'll also be able to drive a jeep at some points and even sail a boat. This keeps things varied and keeps the game from being monotonous in gun fights.

There are new additions to the gameplay at least. Stealth segments are here too, but they're a lot better than in Uncharted 3. In Uncharted 3, stealth segments worked in a manner that one screw up was enough to get an entire mob after you with reinforcements. Here, Uncharted 4 opts to use a bit of inspiration from Metal Gear Solid and other stealth games. In various locations there is tall grass and places to hide. You can mark enemies to know where they are and avoid them. You can sneak up on your enemies and take them down with a stealth kill. Unlike previous games you aren't gaining stealth kills to lead to an inevitable gun fight. Here you can actually play through entire sections without ever firing off a shot if you want to. There are even moments where you can sneak by enemies without killing them at all. The system works because it allows for more flexibility. When I mention it takes inspiration from Metal Gear Solid and other stealth games its not an exaggeration. You can sneak around and enemies all have a gauge that fills up when you're in their line of sight. When it's full their icon turns yellow and they'll actually take notice and you've only got a limited amount of time to get out of sight. Once their icon changes to orange, however, they'll engage in combat. And yes, you can find a place to hide and they'll disengage. While they'll still be combing the area looking for you, you'll be comfortably back in stealth mode.

The only downside to Uncharted 4's stealth mode is that you feel like more could've been done with it. Stealth, especially in areas where you need to kill everyone, takes a long time and asks a lot of patience, but you can't utilize a ton of strategies, because you simply don't have a ton of options for dispatching enemies. When enemies notice you for example, they just keep looking in your direction for a while, but they don't actually come to investigate. You can't effectively lure as a strategy. While they'll go and inspect downed bodies you'll be disappointed to know that afterwards all they do is tell people you might be around but then they just go about business as usual. After playing through Metal Gear Solid V, Uncharted 4's stealth segments feel under utilized and not developed enough. Granted, Uncharted 4 isn't a stealth game. It's a shooter and as such the game seems to be pushing you to engage in gun fights more so than sneak around. After all, the only means of dispatching enemies is to sneak up on them. The only other way is to shoot them and if you do that you'll expose your position. On the other hand, though, trying to see if you can eliminate all of the enemies in an area without being seen is actually a lot more fun than I make it sound. The stealth elements might be generic, but in an action shooter like Uncharted 4 you're not really likely to mind all that much. And if the worst should happen the game is constantly saving progress.

If you die in Uncharted 4 your progress is never sat back that far and if you constantly fail the game will ease up a little thanks to its implementation of dynamic difficulty. If you're constantly failing the game might ease up by lowering the accuracy of your enemies or making them toss grenades less. To ease your mind, however, the dynamic difficulty is actually impacted by the difficulty setting you choose. For instance, if you're playing on the highest difficulty setting you'd have to fail A LOT for the dynamic difficulty to adjust where as on the easiest difficulty it kicks in a lot sooner. The dynamic difficulty also only kicks in for the encounter you're currently engaged in. Once the encounter is over everything resets and the next encounter your adversaries will be just as accurate as they were before.

Like previous games, Uncharted 4 also has a lot of set piece moments filled with action. Some of them are really exciting and heart pounding such as the often shown city rampage present in so many trailers and demos of the game. These are, indeed, exciting moments. It's a shame, however, that Uncharted 4 doesn't actually have moments nearly as big in scope or as memorable as Uncharted 2's train sequence (or helicopter rooftop chase) or nothing as glorious as Uncharted 3's capsizing ocean liner that you had to escape. Most of its set piece moments don't last as long. This doesn't mean Uncharted 4 doesn't have incredible or engaging moments. It absolutely does. It's just that while Uncharted 2 and 3 sprinkled their best moments throughout the adventure, Uncharted 4 wants to save them all for the endgame and this makes up for some of the less memorable moments before hand. Uncharted 4 saves its best and most emotional moments for last making the entire journey worth it in the end. If there's one thing Uncharted has never been very good at, it's their final encounters. The final fight of Uncharted 2 comes to mind. Here, everything in the end game is consistently engaging both gameplay wise, narrative wise and emotionally. If the set piece moments sprinkled throughout fall short of Uncharted 2 and 3 it's all forgiven by the time you hit the last stretch of the game where it hits emotional and narrative heights that Uncharted has never reached before. It's not always as consistently "exciting" getting there but the payoff and emotional investment is far greater than any Uncharted game before it.

All of this praise may make it seem like Uncharted 4 is nothing short of a masterpiece. And from a narrative perspective that's entirely true. Except Uncharted 4 has a few nitpicky things with gameplay that sometimes hamper the experience. Let us take those open sections where you can roam around (usually in a vehicle of some sort). Uncharted has always been a fairly linear experience where the game's have worked to keep the story going by funneling you to certain places. Uncharted 4 does this too... except for in moments where it wants to be a big open world. During these moments the game almost seems to stop. There's a lot to explore, it's just not worth exploring in these moments. There might be optional treasures to find, but none of these optional treasures are necessary to pushing the narrative forward. Previous games made sure the optional treasures weren't too far off the beaten path, but Uncharted 4's open world sections are begging you to tread a LONG way off the beaten path without getting your bearings. Again, none of this stuff is necessarily bad, it just feels unnecessary to make such huge open areas that are primarily empty without a lot of narrative function in a game that pushes narrative as strongly as Uncharted does. At the very least, though, if you do get lost there is an option to have the game show you exactly where to go. I don't actually recommend the option. Even though the areas feel overdeveloped and empty, I still found myself glad to have an open area in an Uncharted game to explore. I just with the exploration had been more worthwhile.

There are also moments where the game feels like a test of trial and error. Uncharted 4 has platforming sections where you scale walls and cliffs and where you'll jump to various planes. But other times it puts you in moments where you might have to fail just to figure out where it was you were supposed to be going in the first place because the game doesn't always make it clear where you can go. When this happens in platforming it isn't nearly as bad. When it happens during a set piece moment, however, where the game only has forward momentum, you might not always be able to see what the game is asking you to do before you fail. There's a particular underwater section where this was an enormous problem. Other Uncharted games also had trial and error moments, but they were not quite as pervasive as they are here. Luckily the punishment for death isn't harsh in Uncharted 4 and it didn't stop me from enjoying its moments.

Despite these nitpicky complaints, though, Uncharted 4 was a great experience from start to finish. It's a little slow to start and takes a while to pick up, but the closer the story comes to its conclusion the more engaging and investing it actually became. Like The Last of Us, Uncharted 4 asks you to be patient while it puts everything into place and develops its characters, situations to earn your trust. It might seem different than how the first three Uncharted games worked, but the payoff is far greater than the previous three games. By the time the credits in Uncharted 4 rolled, the only thing I could think about was how badly I wanted to see this story unfold a second time. It's memorable. It doesn't have nearly as many exciting moments getting to its conclusion as Uncharted 2 or 3 had, but it certainly provides a better payoff with what it gives you. While Uncharted 2 and 3 relied on spikes in action and then deescalation before slowly building up to the next big moment, Uncharted 4 opts to spend the entire game building upon each moment, making each revelation better than the last. It makes for a game that is much more slowly paced than the previous ones, but it provides the best moment of catharsis the series has ever seen as a result. It's a different approach to Uncharted, but it definitely works. If we really do have to say goodbye to Nathan Drake, this is certainly the best send off we could've hoped for.

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End Collector's Edition Strategy Guide
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End Collector's Edition Strategy Guide
by Rick Barba
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $28.99
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Discover the Secret's of Avery's Treasure, May 28, 2016
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It's pretty hard to screw up an Uncharted guide. Most of the time they're fairly simple in nature and fairly easy to follow because the games aren't exactly complicated games in anyway. The last few guides I've gotten my hands on by Prima have been questionable in some way simply because a lot of them are concerned about helping you learn and understand the game... but not really mastering them. For some games this approach is not a good one for a strategy guide (say... Dark Souls III) but for other guides it can work just enough that it's actually okay. Uncharted falls into that category. The layout is fairly similar to Bradygames guide for "The Last of Us." It's actually a pretty good guide that will help you learn the game and with Uncharted that's really all you need.

The guide begins, as most do, with the basics. And considering how many new and unique features Uncharted 4 introduces, it's a pretty good thing that the guide is willing to go into a lot of these basics, even noting how much some things have actually changed. As I said before, Uncharted isn't exactly a complicated game, but the guide does make sure to help those get acquainted to the systems and mechanics of Uncharted fairly well. If you're new to Uncharted then this is a good place to start. It does talk about some of the differences between difficulty settings but the guide is specifically written for those going through moderate difficulty. I'd be less bothered by this if the guide did not also note how extreme some of the differences between Moderate and the game's highest difficulty really are. We'll come back to this point. For now it's just safe to say the guide doesn't do a bad job introducing Uncharted.

It's not long before we dive into the walkthrough and I actually think it's a fairly good one. Each area opens with maps and details. Although the prose sometimes waste time telling me what's going on in the story as opposed to just pressing forward, it doesn't do it too often. Previous Uncharted games have been a little sloppy with maps. The Bradygames guides had the maps drawn like treasure maps, making them difficult to use at times while Piggyback only opted to give you maps in combat situations. None of those guides were bad, per se, but the maps here make you wish that a guide had done them this way before. The maps here are absolutely gorgeous, with diagrams that show you were to go with certain points marked on the map and called out in the walkthrough. They are absolutely stunning. If there's a climbing or platforming section, there are arrows to show you where to go and what route to take. It makes it that you can use the guide as much or as little as possible. The walkthrough also points out where various treasures are. In combat and other scenarios it also points out where guns and weapons are. Another good thing about the guide is that it points out where and when you should've received a trophy. If you're the kind of person that likes to collect trophies this guide will help.

Once we get beyond the walkthrough to the extras this is where the guide can hit a few snags. It points out everything you need to collect and when, but it doesn't spend a lot of time detailing the unlockables. This can be a bit annoying. In Piggyback's Uncharted 3 guide one of the things I appreciated was a small addendum that helped master some of the more troubling parts of the "Crushing" difficulty setting. Here it mentions differences but in some of the more challenging firefights or situations that are actually extremely different the guide doesn't mention anything. It's also not really a good sign that the game hardly mentions anything about the unlockables at all or other secrets. They're not called out or anything.

There is almost nothing mentioned here about multiplayer. There are basics but they put no maps, no coverage or anything of the sort. It's largely ignored. You'll learn the basics of the multiplayer, sure, but you won't see anything about the multiplayer maps or anything like that. If anything this isn't actually that big of a deal, but the effort in and of itself would've been appreciated. Previous guides made sure to point out things like where potential hotzones were or how to navigate the terrain of multiplayer maps. They were nothing special either, but having maps and pointing out certain things on those maps for those hoping to improve their multiplayer game isn't actually a bad thing in and of itself.

All that said, though, the Uncharted 4 guide is actually not bad at all. The walkthrough alone and how detailed it is and how much information there is in it more than makes up for any shortcomings the strategy guide may have otherwise. It's a great walkthrough. And even though it isn't written for higher difficulty settings, at least basic umbrella differences between difficulty levels are called out. So if you do need help with Uncharted 4's main story it's a really good guide to utilize.

Valkyria Chronicles Remastered: Launch Edition - PlayStation 4 Standard Edition
Valkyria Chronicles Remastered: Launch Edition - PlayStation 4 Standard Edition
Price: $29.96
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Remaster of One of the PS3's Greatest Gems, May 21, 2016
2008 was a pretty good year for video games. Games like Metal Gear Solid 4, Fallout 3, LittleBigPlanet and Grand Theft Auto IV hit store shelves. But those were games that everyone was well aware of and were destined to be the successes they were. Throughout 2008 there were other games that got overlooked. Among them was Valkyria Chronicles, a unique strategy RPG that was mixed with third person shooter elements. The hybrid didn't seem like it would work at at first, but it's one of the most unique gaming experiences around. Though it was largely ignored upon its initial release, it eventually found its audience and became a cult classic thanks to good word of mouth and a release on the PC.

I'm tired of seeing a lot of games getting remastered from the previous generation. Not because they aren't good games, but because they're the games that everyone already managed to play. Games like The Last of Us and Tomb Raider are certainly fine games, but they were not overlooked games the way something like Valkyria Chronicles was. As such, I'm glad that this game got a remaster and comes at a relatively cheap price to get it. For those who have yet to experience Valkyria Chronicles, it'll certainly be a lot easier to find this one as opposed to the PS3 version that has become increasingly rare over the years.

Valkyria Chronicles centers on the small nation of Gallia. It is just one nation in Europa that is in the way to world domination from the East Europan Imperial Alliance. As the Empire draws near the Gallian forces decide they won't let their land be taken from them and raise arms to fight back. Squad 7 just happens to be the premiere squad, and the characters that you'll control. On the surface, Valkyria Chronicles is simple, but as the story progresses a lot of secrets and ancient evils get uncovered. But it's not the simplicity of the story that makes it interesting. It's the majority of characters and themes that do so. Valkyria Chronicles is a very human story. Do not let it's asesthetic fool you, Valkyria Chronicles has a lot of heartbreaking moments and has a lot of twists and turns. A lot of JRPGs that center on the themes Valkyria Chronicles tackles tend to be a lot prechier than most games, but Valkyria Chronicles is less interested in preaching, and more interested in showing you the horrors of war.

The characters make things all the better. Squad 7 is full of colorful faces and the game doesn't opt to just center on one, but a select handful of obvious characters. There's Welkin Gunther, the son of a famous general, Alicia, Rosie and Largo round out the main cast, but there are also plenty of supporting characters in the main narrative. There are also characters that join Squad 7 that you can use. And while they may not play as big a role in the story itself, they do actually come with their own personality that helps you get to know and understand them. Valkyria Chronicles takes a lot of care with its characters, themes and setting. The game's story comes through in a storybook fashion. As you access new chapters you'll watch scenes that play out between characters and see the drama unfold. That is until a major battle comes up and then you're able to actually go into the fight.

There are few games that play like Valkyria Chronicles. To this day it still plays relatively well and still comes across as a unique experience. When a battle begins you can choose specific units from the Squad 7 barracks to deploy. Each character is also going to be one of several classes. You have scouts who can move across the battle field with ease, Shocktroopers for damage, Lancers to take out tanks and Engineers for all of your repairs. You also have your own tank as well. You'll place them on the map and be able to take on the enemy.

Unlike most strategy RPGs, Valkyria Chronicles isn't just a menu based experience that involves moving characters around. You need to be active as well. Each phase always begins with a birds-eye view of the map where you can select a unit. You have CP (Command Points) and every time you select a unit you will use some CP. Once this happens the game zooms in and you can control the character and move them around. Every character has an action gauge. Once the gauge depletes they can no longer move. At this point you'll either have to cancel or perform an action. When you perform actions you have a chance to actually aim on your own and choose to shoot. This is a very unique system. Once a character's action is over the game zooms back out and you can select another unit. You can also select the same unit, but they can't move as far. Once the phase is over the characters action gauge can reset.

There are a lot of aspects to this system that work. It's great to see how it combines third person shooter with tactical action. When you're running around, enemies can still shoot at you and you'll be caught in a cross fire, but you can also take cover behind sandbags and you can also toss grenades.

What is most interesting about the battle system however are the potentials. Every character in Squad 7 has a personality and they'll bring it into battle. These are potentials and they work in a myriad of ways to reinforce certain personality traits. Welkin, for instance, loves nature and actually gets a boost whenever he's around fauna. Other characters might fancy other characters and get an attack boost whenever they're around. These potentials vary from being able to boost accuracy or attack to being able to allow some characters to heal or take reduced damage from crossfire. Not every potential is a benefit, however, and this makes choosing who to send into combat something to think about. Some characters don't get along with other characters and sending them into combat might not do so well for them all the time. Characters might also have allergies. Welkin may like nature, for instance, but someone else might be allergic. These potentials don't always make a huge difference, they activate automatically, but it might help you learn who to send into combat and who not to depending on the situation.

On the other hand, characters also have characters they get along with. When you attack someone with an ally close by, they'll join in on the attack with you, but if they're friends there's a higher chance this will happen.

If there was anything about Valkyria Chronicles battle system that was a bit annoying it would be that the enemies aren't very smart. They often times just run around aimlessly during their phase or don't really take advantage of gaps in your defenses. Sometimes enemies will run right up to you and not even take time to deal damage. The only time this isn't true is for bosses who are relentless, but at least boss fights aren't unbalanced. Regular grunts, however, rarely pose a threat. For a while it may be a wonder what strategy you need to use. Despite that the grunts aren't particularly challenging, figuring out how to navigate some of the maps is. They're huge and filled with hazards and traps. Grunts by themselves are no threat, but once you're beset by several due to your own errors they will be. Places might also have hazards such as mines and they'll also deploy their own tanks that can force a particular strategy on you. The boss encounters also really test your strategic chops, forcing you to use the environment to your advantage to avoid some of their attacks. There are also some maps that might throw in a twist halfway through the battle as well. Playing Valkyria Chronicles isn't a static experience, there are lots of things that can happen in battle to change things up.

Should an ally go down in battle you must get to them so that a medic can take them off the battle field. If you neglect them or the enemy gets to them first, they're gone forever.

Most missions the objective is just to capture the main enemy camp. The same is true of them. Grunts will rarely do this (mostly stopping just outside your base) and bosses rarely care for this. When a mission is over you also get a grade that might reward bonus experience for being able to finish a mission swiftly. There is a slight problem with some of this. The stipulations to get the highest mission rank are usually within reach, but they take a devastating amount of perfection to get. Not simply finishing the mission quickly, but going in a meticulous manner to do so. This often requires you to make sure that your shots don't miss at all. If you're looking to get as many "A" ranks as possible, you're going to have to get used to saving in the middle of battle. When enemies dodge your attacks or they miss for whatever reason, you're going to have to reload. This is in the event you want the highest rankings. If you don't care it's no big deal, but for those going for it... Valkyria Chronicles expects perfection... that sometimes comes with the role of a die rather than through your own skill and placement of units.

Unlike most games, Valkyria Chronicles doesn't level up characters individually. Instead classes level up together. All your Scouts level up together. So if you level up the Scout class to level 2, every Scout will be level 2. You'll also be able to customize your tanks and other equipment while also being able to upgrade guns, grenades and armor for your characters.

Valkyria Chronicles is also one of the most gorgeous looking games out there. It's cel-shaded aesthetic mixed with water colors often makes it look like a moving painting or storybook. It's absolutely stunning and still holds up well today. It also looks really good in this remaster, moving at a much better framerate without being bogged down by long load times. For those who played the PS3 version, they'll also be glad to know that all the DLC has been included. The game also has some of the most beautiful music composed by veteran composer Hitoshi Sakimoto. The voice acting is also very well down. The entire presentation of Valkyria Chronicles is amazing and sometimes it can contrast with some of the dark themes, but it's a good contrast. It's one that makes some of the game's darker moments easier to take in. Despite terrible things happening throughout the story from time to time, the game still feels optimistic and like a storybook come to life.

If anything, the only problem with the remaster is the same thing that can dog any remaster. There isn't always a ton of reason to get it if you own the original. Yes, it looks better than the PS3 version, but when it comes to cel-shading it's hard to make the visuals more outstanding than they already are. You're getting a presentation in 1080p and at 60 frames per second and it's gorgeous, but the PS3 version hasn't exactly aged terribly over time. None of that is bad in any way, mind you, it is only to point out that if you still have the PS3 version there's no need to be in a rush experience it again, you can probably hold off for a bit. This doesn't mean don't buy it, it just means that you're not missing out by not immediately having it in your collection if you've still got the original in your possession. Even with that being said, though, one of the best things about this remaster is that it's coming at a pretty cheap price compared to so many other remasters from the last generation. Most remasters are starting at fifty or sixty bucks easy, but Valkryria Chronicles is only thirty.

There aren't too many serious things that keep Valkyria Chronicles down. After eight years, Valkyria Chronicles still holds up very well today. The story is still moving and thematically ambitious while the gameplay still holds up well. The only thing that doesn't hold up so well is how demanding Valkyria Chronicles is when going for the highest ranks in missions. Aside from that the game hasn't aged poorly at all. If you've never played Valkyria Chronicles before and you like Strategy RPGs then you owe it to yourself to do so now. If you're one who played it before and want to play it again the asking price here isn't bad.

Dark Souls III Collector's Edition: Prima Official Game Guide
Dark Souls III Collector's Edition: Prima Official Game Guide
by Phillip Marcus
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $26.52
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74 of 81 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Be Wary of Guide, April 13, 2016
When the first two Dark Souls games came out, they were both accompanied by a strategy guide by Future Press (who would also go on to do the Bloodborne guide as well). In terms of strategy guides they were some of the best you could possibly find. The paper was thick, the information was precise and exact. The guides were so exact in what they tried to tell you that it was a companion. I dramatically improved my Dark Souls performance. I died a lot less with Future Press. They were more than guides, they were collector's items filled with as much information as you could possibly want. So much so that their shortcomings were negligible compared to the help you were getting. When I heard that Prima was making the guide for Dark Souls III instead of Future Press I immediately worried. Thankfully, the Prima guide isn't horrendous. Had I not seen the work done with the Future Press guides beforehand I might even say it is a good guide... but it isn't. It's just average. Future Press really reached to help the player. They went the extra mile. Prima takes an approach that insists on telling you what to expect but not always necessarily how to deal with it. You'll learn the game, you won't master it.

To begin the guide starts with all the basics. It'll tell you how to go about combat. This is not bad stuff. For those new to Dark Souls this is a good place to start. However, as I said before, Prima doesn't go the extra mile. You'll learn how the game operates, not necessarily how to take advantage of those moments. That's not to say you won't learn anything. Again, had I not been exposed to Future Press I'd have probably thought little of the information here. Except you also recognize things that Prima is missing. For instance, it doesn't tell you about the status effects inflicted. There are new elements to Dark Souls III and ailments not present in the previous two games that Prima simply doesn't detail at all. So what's new in Dark Souls III? Don't expect Prima to tell you. There might be a small mention but don't expect a lot of detail. Future Press's Dark Souls II guide had an entire section dedicated entirely to helping returning players realize what was new to the game. Prima goes about as if this is everyone's first Dark Souls experience. Most of the information is tailored toward beginners, not experienced players. Future Press made their guides for beginners and experienced players alike.

When the guide details the classes it's pretty good and detailed. When it details your stats, however, it only shows you for certain levels. So you'll get an idea of how your stats rise. That's not so much of a problem. Future Press went that extra mile and showed a good array between a lot of levels. Likewise, those guides told you how many souls you'd need for each level up and gave you tips on how to distribute. Prima opts not to. Now, this isn't really a big deal. It's not as if I ever actually ever used these charts in the Future Press guide, but it was nice knowing it was there. So I'm not faulting Prima too much. I was also okay with the explanation of the stats. None of this stuff is really all that bad. Most of it is pretty good, actually.

The walkthrough isn't too bad either, but it's where we start hitting some of the guide's bigger problems. For the most part, I like the walkthrough. Some of it is definitely Future Press related. Each area opens up with maps, a list of items and bonfire locations. There are also callouts of enemies and any key discoveries. What makes it seem at least a little Future Press inspired is that the guide is written in the waypoint manner. That is to say, find Point 1 on the map and then match it with Point 1 in the text and it'll tell you what to do at that location. And for the most part the guide helps you out when it is telling you what to do at each location. Dark Souls, however, is a game where you need to be prepared in more ways than that. The maps are actually quite detailed in and of themselves, but there are little things that I wish Prima would have done. For example, there aren't any enemies on the maps themselves, and knowing when a powerful enemy is coming or what to prepare for around the next corner is actually a must in Dark Souls. This isn't actually a small thing, either, knowing what's around the corner is essential in a Dark Souls guide. Future Press guides could be used without reading the text if need be. With Prima you'll have to. In a game where you need to be on your toes constantly, the walkthrough isn't tailored to quick reference. This is actually strange seeing as how the guide itself warns that you should never let your guard down. If that's the case I need the walkthrough to supplement this too. Certainly there's nothing wrong with being text heavy, but the maps in most other guides (notably by Piggyback and Future Press) are done in such a way that a guide can be used as much or as little as possible.

The worst part about the walkthrough, however, is undoubtedly the boss strategies. It is no contest that Future Press's approach to boss strategies were far better. Prima gets credit for actually putting more of their boss strategies in the walkthrough (Future Press usually put all their boss strategies in the Bestiary section), they lack a lot of detail and preparation. Dark Souls is more about paying attention to enemy patterns and knowing what enemies do to telegraph their attacks. The guide writes about bosses as if the key to winning is to be aggressive when in reality it's knowing the attacks of the bosses that's far more important. Figuring out HOW to attack bosses in a Dark Souls game is pretty simple. But Dark Souls isn't always about offensive play. Dark Souls is about patience and defense. A boss strategy is simply no good without detailing about defensive play or telling me about a bosses attacks. This is a HUGE problem with the guide as I was rarely being prepared for a boss battle.

There is some info on multiplayer and covenants... but not a lot. It's simply not as detailed as I had hoped it to be, particularly the covenants, sometimes neglecting to tell you the rewards for raising devotion and other times not even telling you what to do to find them. They might be in the walkthrough, but they aren't always in the covenant section itself.

The guide then goes on to list items, spells and weapon skills. These are all basic lists. It's when it gets to weapons and armor that I have concerns. We get the sets in all their detail, but it would've really been helpful to know what the weapons and armors stats look like when maxed out or at the various levels. It would've been useful to plan accordingly for most anything. The guide also doesn't do the best job of showing the scaling and how it may change as you level up a weapon. Much like so many other areas of the guide, it has the most basic of basic information but doesn't really build on those basics. It helps you understand your weapons... it doesn't help you get the most out of them. And all it would've taken for this would've been better detailed tables.

The other terrible part about this guide is the bestiary. The walkthrough is one thing, but perhaps the most important aspect of a Dark Souls guide (at least to me personally) is getting to know the enemies I'm going to do battle with. Like the boss battles, having info on the attacks of some of the stronger enemies is essential. Future Press did this marvelously. Each enemy had their own individual strategy listed in those guides. Here there is some strategy, but they are mostly profiles. You get a few stats listed in a table for each area of the game, but that's about it. The only stat listed, however, is HP. Want to know if an enemy can be poisoned? The guide will tell you that you can, but not HOW effective it might be. The guide doesn't care to detail an enemy's various defenses. It won't show you stats, it won't tell you if slash or thrust damage is better, it won't tell you a great deal about any enemy's magical or elemental defenses. Much like the rest of the guide, it gives you BASIC details, it doesn't give you IN-DEPTH detail. For those who just want to understand the game this will not be a problem for you. For those who want to conquer Dark Souls III and truly be prepared for (inevitable) death you're going to want more than this.

Learning about the environment and the enemies in Dark Souls is of the utmost importance in enhancing ones experience with Dark Souls. In one area Prima actually succeeds. The guide is actually pretty good at helping you learn the various environments. Environmental hazards actually get pointed out. Learning enemies, however? Not so good. It's sad to see such a poorly integrated bestiary for a game where learning your enemies attacks is so crucial to the game itself. You're mostly going in blind when engaging in combat with this strategy guide. All of these flaws with standard enemies also apply to bosses. No detail on what types of attacks are effective and no detail on their various defenses and the like. The guide leaves you incredibly ill-prepared for combat. For most games just giving you the basics would be enough. But Dark Souls requires the player to know their foe beyond merely knowing when to attack. You need to know when to defend too, and the guide just isn't suited to defensive play. The point of getting a guide to a Dark Souls game is to speed up the learning process of engaging your enemies. This guide doesn't do that. For those hoping to improve their game, the guide isn't very helpful.

The last two sections are the NPCs, which is actually pretty good. You'll learn the stories of certain characters and how to go about it, as well as some rewards if they're there. As of the time of this writing I can't be sure of the accuracy of this section just yet. There weren't really any glaring errors just by reading through some of it. On the other hand, the last portion is a trophy/achievement guide and it's just the standard list of trophies. Again, by now most guides would've gone the extra mile and actually provided a trophy guide.

It also probably warrants mentioning that the paper used for the guide is also incredibly thin. They were a nice glossy feel, but they are thin pages that can easily be ripped.

The collector's edition guide also came with a journal that (strangely) has better quality paper than the actual guide it came with. There's also an e-guide, but as usual it's not really an especially worthwhile bonus to get a free digital guide. All it is is the exact same thing you got that can only be accessed on Prima's website. You can't download the e-guide to a tablet or anything. The inclusion of a free e-guide seems great until you realize that the only way you'll be able to access it is on Prima's website. With no information that differs from the actual printed guide there's no point in wasting time on it.

It's an average guide, for the most part. It's not an especially good strategy guide, but it won't leave you completely lost either. It doesn't go to the lengths to make sure you can master the game the way Future Press did, though, which is why it's so annoying that Future Press didn't make a guide for this game. Prima spends a lot of time getting you to understand the game, but not enough time getting you to master it. It's also a shame that there is no index or a more detailed table of contents to really help players navigate the guide. This guide is pretty big and you'll find yourself flipping a lot. I really wish strategy guides that were huge would provide ribbon bookmarks. For Dark Souls especially you'll find yourself flipping back and forth between the walkthrough and other areas. The walkthrough itself is actually somewhat useful, but the bread and butter of any Dark Souls guide really are the strategies. The walkthrough being okay is fine, but the bestiary lacking as much detail as it does and the boss strategies lacking as much detail as they do mean the guide is no where near as useful for the Dark Souls experience as I'd like it to be. It can help players really learn the game, but what Future Press did was help players MASTER and PERFECT their game.

In the long run the Prima guide is, if anything, not useless. It's just that it only really covers the basics of Dark Souls. Those hoping for the same in-depth coverage as Future Press are not going to find it. The Future Press guides were like having tomes of information. Here there are so many things missing that made the Future Press guides more than just strategy guides, but companions. Here, the guide can sometimes be helpful, but it never wants to go above and beyond to truly help players get the most out of their Dark Souls experience. With Future Press I was prepared to die a little less. With Prima I'm prepared to die a whole lot more.
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 16, 2016 3:31 PM PDT

Bloodborne The Old Hunters Collector's Edition Guide
Bloodborne The Old Hunters Collector's Edition Guide
by Future Press
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.27
21 used & new from $15.80

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awakening From the Hunter's Nightmare, January 12, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
It's rare to see Future Press make a guide for the expanded content of a game. When Dark Souls and Dark Souls II got their expansions, Future Press wasn't in sight at all with a guide to cover new content and items. In their introduction Future Press admits they wanted to do such things for expansions but could never really justify it. Here, they just went for it. The end result is a guide that stays incredibly consistent with the original guide published. But rather than publishing a whole new book (that would amount to near 800 pages if they did) they merely covered the expansion by itself. Needless to say, you won't get any content for the original game if you don't have the original guide. Therefore, you might want to think of the guide itself as also an expansion.

The layout is almost exactly the same as the original guide, but this time it jumps right in. The original guide spent a lot of time getting you acquainted with the game. This one, however, assumes you're already familiar with the systems found in Bloodborne. This guide isn't treating "The Old Hunters," like a new game, but assuming that you already know Bloodborne's various systems in and out. What it does do, however, is point out the changes made in the various patches over time and how they will affect the gameplay. The opening section of the guide spends more time getting you familiar with the updates rather than familiar with the game itself. This is perhaps what I like most about this guide. It doesn't spend a lot of time rehashing stuff from the previous guide. Everything it does rehash is all quick. There is a table for the weapons and a quick call out to previous enemies they've already discussed.

This doesn't mean it'll shorthand you in all the areas. The guide has no qualms jumping int the walkthrough and it's written exactly as it was before. The walkthrough has markers on the maps that guide you through the various areas of The Hunter's Nightmare, pointing out branching paths and pointing out items along the way. The walkthrough is going to feel quick, however. It'll give you combat scenarios and how to deal with them, but for the most part, it spends time focusing on what to do at certain points. The walkthrough itself doesn't have boss strategies or individual enemy strategies. All that stuff is saved for later. The walkthrough gets the job done, but as with the original guide, the stuff beyond the walkthrough is far more valuable and insightful.

First there is the bestiary. This section gives step by step tip son how to defeat each and every new enemy encountered in The Old Hunters. More than that, the guide also provides the expert boss strategies necessary to get past the strongest of foes. They're precise and in depth. A part of me still wishes they were in the walkthrough itself, but the fact that they're as in depth and as good as they are will have to suffice. The strategies always give an overview and then detail the battle itself and also talk about the environment you're fighting in. They're usually helpful tips and to the point.

The Old Hunters introduces a LOT of fascinating new weapons and this guide will help you understand how they work. Diagrams show how their swings work, how fast and how effective they can be. They also detail how to scale the weapon to the best of its abilities and offer advice on which gems to attach to it. This is where I got some of the most out of the guide simply because the new weapons were amazing, and it helped to recognize how they work. This is especially true if you've engaged in PVP or cooperation and seen these weapons in action without having them yourself. There is also a lot of useful information on the new items and attire you'll find as well.

Another useful portion of the book is that the guide also gives individual strategies for each hunter. It talks about the weapons they use and how to defeat them. There's always a good breakdown.

A lot of game include trophies now, but I'm always surprised how many guides neglect a Trophy Guide. It's starting to become standard to include a trophy guide for those who want it and I'm glad to see it here. It'll point out trophies but sometimes the strategies are located elsewhere in the guide and you'll have to flip back. It's an interesting concept and I'm glad more guides are starting to do this. It's pretty good here and it's great some of these strategies are in the walkthrough. Other times, it has quick references for you. For instance, in terms of getting all the weapons, there's a handy chart to point to where all of them are.

If you were one that was particularly interested in the lore of Bloodborne the last chapter might be the most fascinating for you. The last bit spends a lot of time talking about the lore and going in depth about the story of Bloodborne. It does this by showing connections between locations, characters and even talks about the items in your inventory that add to it. If need be, they'll also utilize dialog to help you understand the lore as well. Dialog drawn directly from the game. It all comes together to provide a coherent and in-depth interpretation of the events of Bloodborne. If you're curious about the lore and want to know more, this is a nice bit. Although it's still just as fun to learn of these things on your own. At least it serves as a great reference. The last bit is an art gallery and it's pretty amazing to look at. A nice bit of closure to such a fantastic guide.

The best part about this guide is that you can use as much or as little as you like and still feel like it's helping to enhance the game compliment the game itself. It's a detailed guide. If you've got Bloodborne and you need some help with The Old Hunters, this is a great guide to invest in.

Final Fantasy Box Set 2: Official Game Guide
Final Fantasy Box Set 2: Official Game Guide
by Prima Games
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $86.75
36 used & new from $71.00

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Much Like the First Boxset, There's Nothing Special Here, December 20, 2015
Like the first boxset that came out in mid 2015, this Final Fantasy guide boxset is largely just the exact same guides you saw before, just given a facelift to their layout design. This makes the guides look slightly cleaner, but for the most part all of the information is the same information you got with these guides before. The largest difference is that the Final Fantasy X and X-2 guides include information for the PS3/PS4 release that's actually taken directly from the updated Bradygames guide that came out. All three guides, like before, are just the Bradygames guides released from back in the day with a new coat of paint, but no noticeable renovations.

Let's talk the Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2 guides first. They are similar guides. Both were published by Bradygames originally in 2001 and 2003 respectively. Both guides were then updated for the HD Remaster and that information is also here. The good news is that unlike the Final Fantasy VII, VIII and IX guides you at least can bask in the comfort that the Final Fantasy X guide originally published in 2001 was a relatively good guide, at least. You can also rest assured that the Final Fantasy X-2 guide isn't horrible. In the previous boxset the only guide really worth getting in the set was the Final Fantasy IX guide... but only because it was actually updated. This same thing isn't true here. Both the Final Fantasy X and X-2 guides are nearly exact duplicates of the guides published in 2001 and 2003... just adding what they could from the X and X-2 remastered guides. While the two guides aren't bad, just slapping a hardcover on them hardly makes them worth as much money as the boxset is asking for. The softcover guides are still plentiful in circulation, for cheaper. The HD Remaster guide (which covers both games together) is also still in circulation and is astronomically cheaper than this boxset. The information you're getting there is exactly the same as what you'll get here.

Yet, this also means that both the Final Fantasy X and X-2 guides have the exact same errors as before. While the original Final Fantasy X guide wasn't bad, it misses out considerably on the coverage of the monster arena. You'll learn nothing about it in the long run. What are the stats of the creations there? What strategies can be used to defeat them? The guide doesn't say and it isn't updated here to actually give you any idea. The Piggyback Guide published in 2002 is still better than the updated guide you're getting here. Prima didn't bother to actually update the information, even though it's now available everywhere. They literally just slapped the guide together from previous assets, but not actually adding anything. Even for collector's purposes this isn't really worth it.

The Final Fantasy X-2 guide is also the same. The checklist to make sure you get a full 100% is still incomplete and missing a couple of rather small tidbits. One has to use the walkthrough to really find them all in conjunction with this list. Again, with all the information actually being available, it should've been updated to include these things. Again, Piggyback Interactive's original guide is STILL better than this "updated" one.

But worse than the Final Fantasy X and X-2 guides is the Final Fantasy XII guide. This guide, originally published in 2006, wasn't much to write about then, and it still isn't here. Like all the other reissued guides, the layout is cleaned up to look a little better and more friendly to read, but none of the information has been updated. It's the same guide you got back then... with the same errors. For Final Fantasy XII, in particular, this is pretty important because there was so much information missing from the 2006 release. There were times when the guide didn't actually point out what items were where. But worse than all of that was the large amount of sidequests missing. Want to know about the Subterra? The guide doesn't tell you anything about this. Want to know what to do in the return to the giant crystal? Tough, the guide doesn't cover it. At all. Want to know about the Zertinian Caverns? Tough, the guide doesn't cover this either. It has a lot of information in the main walkthrough, but the moment you want to know about the sidequests in Final Fantasy XII the guide doesn't have this information. None of this is updated at all. Considering how long ago Final Fantasy XII was released and how plentiful this information is out and about... it's strange none of it was included. And much like the first boxset, you can find better guides with this information already included. In this case, the Piggyback guides released in 2002, 2004 and 2007 respectively have all the information for all the games. And since the HD Remaster of Final Fantasy X and X-2 are the PAL regions, it means that Piggyback can give you full coverage of the game without being designed for the North American releases.

The box set also comes with lithographs. As with the first set, it's all familiar artwork you can find everywhere, better in quality and all around cheaper.

When guides are reissued--even in the context of being collector's items--they should be updated in some way. Not just layout, but the information. Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy X-2 and Final Fantasy XII have been out for a while. All the information is now known, the guides should've included this. If someone is playing through any of these games for the first time, they're not getting all the information about these games. Granted, this is meant to be a collector's item. You don't necessarily need a printed guide for these three games when all the information is readily available. But that is no excuse to make a poor product. Especially considering how expensive this set is. If one is going to pay this much, it ought to have all the information needed.

Yet even as a collector's item, it is something of a letdown. The hardcover is not up to the same quality that you find with other collector's edition strategy guides. Those Legend of Zelda collector's edition guides have neat hardcovers made with quality. They not only opt to evoke the games aesthetic qualities (the Zelda guides, in particular, really have a look that gives the illusion you've found ancient tomes) but the binding used with them holds them together really well. The paper is nice and thick, but they don't lack this idea that you've found something authentic. It's kind of cool to display those Zelda guides with their gold trimmed pages and Hylian symbols on the front (and Majora's Mask collector's edition has--what else, a gold Majora on the front cover).

And that's the worst part about this set. It's not like Prima hasn't done a great boxset for strategy guides before. They did, after all, release a collector's edition boxset containing six Zelda guides. Not only were they updated with the correct information (they took great care in revising their Skyward Sword guide--the initial release of which was terrible) but they evoked the feel of the games they represented. Certainly one does not "need" those guides, but they supplement the games nicely. They also compliment the games nicely. As a collector's set, they are worth having around for Zelda fans to display their fandom. This set (as well as the first Final Fantasy boxset) are rather poor in comparison. The final fantasy boxsets don't feel like love letters to fans, but rather like cash grabs. Even the most hardcore of Final Fantasy fans aren't getting much from this boxset.

Yoshi's Woolly World -  Wii U
Yoshi's Woolly World - Wii U
Price: $39.99
92 used & new from $30.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Stitched to Perfection, December 5, 2015
Twenty years ago, Nintendo released Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island. The game was a masterpiece and made Yoshi even more popular than he already was at that time. Since then Yoshi has been in several games with varying aesthetics. From the crayon inspired visuals of the first game, to the oil pastel inspired visuals of Yoshi's New Island. Yoshi's Wooly World takes an aesthetic similar to Kirby's Epic Yarn. This should not suggest, however, that the game is the same thing with Yoshi slapped on. Yoshi's Wooly World is a delightful experience.

As is the case with many Nintendo games, Yoshi's Wooly World is not a story centered kind of game. It is a game which wants to focus on gameplay more so than anything. Kamek has come and turned several of the Yoshi clan into yarn and kidnapped them. Along the way he drops a few bundles of yarn. A few of the Yoshis managed to escape and now have to follow Kamek to rescue their friends.

If you've played previous Yoshi games, then Yoshi's Wooly World is going to be easy to sink into. As Yoshi you will traverse a series of levels over the course of several worlds. Yoshi can use his tongue to ingest enemies and he can turn them into yarn balls, which he can use to throw. Yoshi can also flutter and ground pound just as he always has. But the most important thing is making yarn balls and using them. You'll have to constantly throw them at enemies, use them to fill in platforms and sometimes even toss them at enemies so that you can use them. For example, throwing a yarn ball at a chain chomp might turn them into a giant ball of yarn that you can use as a ball to push. On the surface, Yoshi's Wooly World is simple. And were it not for the level design you'd likely think it was an easy game. Certainly it begins this way, but Yoshi's Wooly World can actually be challenging.

Unlike Kirby's Epic Yarn, Yoshi's Wooly World isn't a cakewalk. While I still believe Kirby's Epic Yarn to be fun, there were never any consequences for anything for the player. Some games have succeeded through this (the LEGO games are usually still great regardless) but it also meant that Kirby's Epic Yarn didn't really provide a lot for players to strive for. Yoshi's Wooly World has consequences. You have a finite number of hits to take before you fail and there are pitfalls everywhere. The first few levels are simple, teaching you the basics of the game. Once you've learned them you're off on your way and the levels become more unique. While various concepts might be repeated, every level feels unique and different.

Throughout each level there are certain metrics that have to be met. You need to collect five flowers, five bundles of yarn and 20 stamps. This is very similar to what Yoshi games usually do in general. You are also tasked with completing a level with all of your hearts. It's the flowers and bundles of yarn that are most important. The flowers open up hidden levels, while the bundles of yarn rescue a new Yoshi. It's finding all of these goodies in the levels that can add to the challenge considerably. For instance, to find all the flowers might require you to find hidden bubbles to pop or bonus rooms. You need to be willing to search every nook and cranny to find every levels hidden secret. The stamps are hidden among the gems you collect. And collecting gems is important because you can buy powerups by using them.

The powerups can make the game easier if you so choose. They have different properties. One, for example, makes all your yarn balls big. Another allows you to see all the hidden secrets in a level. There are a lot more, but they're helpful. Especially the ones that allow you to see the various hidden secrets.

For those who are curious about whether or not the game is a challenge, it is. Once you get beyond the first world the game has no qualms throwing various environmental challenges at you that will test your reflexes and platforming skills. If anyone finds the game a little too much you can change difficulty settings at any time. There's a classic mode which sets the difficulty where you want it, and a mellow mode which considerably drops the difficulty level for those who just want a nice adventure through the game. For those who are experienced platform players, I highly recommend the classic mode.

There's also a co-op mode. Two players are able to go about the game together. It's a unique experience. But it's not like New Super Mario Bros. The game doesn't move fast enough for a second player to be continuously left behind. Players can also eat one another and utilize them. This means if you're partner is about to fall into a pit you can definitely save them. It's a good experience that isn't really hampered too much. There is a lot of fun to be had, but you won't find yourself in constant competition with the one you're supposed to be working with. This means it's not as crazy as New Super Mario Bros. is, but it also means that you're likely to get through the game more smoothly.

There are a lot of games that rely on raw power for their visuals. But being a good looking game isn't just about graphical prowess. It's also about your art direction and artistic design. Yoshi's Wooly World is by far the prettiest looking game I've ever seen on the Wii U, and it's all due to the art design of the game itself. Everything in this game is made of wool. But the game keeps this aesthetic choice going throughout the entire experience. Yoshi wool will stitch into something else depending on what he's doing. When he's in water, for instance, his feet stitch into tiny propellers. When you eat shy guys, they unravel when Yoshi turns them into balls of yarn. This doesn't just happen with the characters, but with the environment as well. Yoshi can pull at loose threads and watch parts of the environment drop away and change. He can also push fabric aside to find hidden secrets. Since everything is made of wool or looks stitched in some way it helps the game keep a consistent and uniform look. It's an amazing looking game. It's also insanely colorful and bright. Yoshi has gone through several different artistic looks, but this wool like look is the most imaginative that the series has ever had. If you have Amiibos you can also see how Yoshi looks as various different characters depending on the Amiibo you've used.

The music in previous Yoshi games hasn't been the best. Yoshi's Island DS had music that was quite forgettable and just didn't match up with the tone of the levels at all. Yoshi's New Island soundtrack was barely even worth talking about. Yoshi's Wooly World actually has good music. It's got a lot of catchy tunes. Likewise, almost every level has its own unique background music. There are also various sound effects that are familiar. You've heard most of Yoshi's yelps and hums before and they're not really any different here. A lot of the music, however, sounds calm. It can be good considering that a lot of the levels in Yoshi's Wooly World are quite lengthy, even the early ones feel longer than your average platformer.

Yoshi's Wooly World is a delightful game. There are not a lot of problems with the game in and of itself. The problems it does have, however, are mostly problems that can be avoided or are more subjective. For one, you can use a Yoshi Amiibo to have an extra Yoshi with you, and you'll control both. This is not a good way to play. It's more trouble than it's worth. But in order to end up with this problem you'd have to actively do this in the first place. And while the game can be a challenge due to platforming and hazards... the bosses are strangely not that difficult at all. A lot of Yoshi games give you tons of creativity. And while there are some creative bosses here, none of them are actually that difficult to defeat. The trek to the bosses are more challenging than the bosses themselves.

There isn't a lot that keeps Wooly World from being amazing. It's a great game that any fan of Yoshi should play. It's creative and imaginative in a lot of ways. For those who've gone on Yoshi's previous adventures, Wooly World is a delightful experience.

Until Dawn - PlayStation 4
Until Dawn - PlayStation 4
Price: $14.99
277 used & new from $14.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Engrossing, November 30, 2015
Within gaming we've seen a resurgence of the horror genre. Albeit they are mostly smaller independent games. Until Dawn drops down onto the mainstream market and it's an amazing experience. One that actually has the power to make your choices feel like they matter. It's a love letter to horror movies, relying on familiar tropes but letting you play around with them in the experience. What results is a gaming experience that's both intense and engaging.

Until Dawn centers on a group of friends who have reunited at a Cabin a year after two of their friends disappeared. Things are going just fine until the group of teenagers realize they aren't alone in the mountains. On the surface there's nothing about the story that feels exciting. It's typical horror movie fair. A bunch of teenagers are isolated in a cabin in the mountains that also just so happens to be out in the middle of the woods. But if the isolated cabin and a bunch of teenagers was all there was to the experience, Until Dawn wouldn't be worth discussing in any fashion. What makes the story important (and actually good) are the mysteries at play and the characters themselves. The mystery is actually quite good in and of itself and there are actually three. The first is figuring out what happened to your two friends a year ago. Another involves figuring out the mystery surrounding a mysterious man wandering around and the last concerns itself with events which happened in 1952. As you progress through the game you'll constantly find clues to all three mysteries that you can pick up and inspect and try to put together. As the game progresses the mysteries actually become quite fascinating and absorbing.

There are seven characters in Until Dawn and you'll spend the game taking control over each one of them at various times in the story. The game begins with an excellent tutorial that gives players a sense of just how the game works and the game flow itself. When you control characters you can walk around and explore your surroundings. Sometimes objects will glimmer, giving you a chance to inspect them. Upon doing so you can usually grab them, flip them over in your hand, observe them and watch as characters make commentary. Other times during certain scenes and during certain moments of the game you'll have to make choice decisions. Do you provide humor to an intense situation or are you serious about it the whole time? When two characters are fighting, who do you side with in the fight? How will you build and maintain the friendships between these characters? What makes the game exciting is that your choices actually feel like they matter in some way. Games like The Walking Dead or The Wolf Among Us have ways of giving the illusion that choice matters, but without drastically altering the narrative at play. Until Dawn, however, makes sure that your choices actually have an impact in some way. Ever character has a set of attributes about them, and every character also has a relationship with every other character. Characters might be honest, charitable, humorous or brave, for instance (among other things). The choices you make might affect them in various ways. If you're picking a lot of humorous or sarcastic choices, for example, then you'll find their "Funny" attribute increases. When you're introduced to the characters you'll get a sense of their personality.

Players also have to keep an eye on the relationships they have with the characters in the game. During choice moments the choices you make will have an impact on various friendships. Do you look at someone's phone and snoop? Doing so will decrease the relationship between two characters. Early on in the game two of the girls fight and whoever you side with has an impact on the relationship between all three characters.

The game is made even more intriguing by the butterfly effect. There are a couple of games that utilize something like this (Life is Strange is a good example) and do it well. Until Dawn makes sure that some of your choices matter. Every now and then when you make a choice, a butterfly effect takes place and can alter the story. Characters will remember certain things you did. You might find certain objects you realize are actually important and the game lets you know via a butterfly effect. It keeps you on your toes and keeps you guessing, especially as you realize the impact of your decisions later on down the line. Through some of these choice moments characters will likely die. Their lives are in your hand and the game challenges you to try to save everyone. On the other hand, however, Until Dawn doesn't give you the opportunity to reverse your decisions. In many games if you simply reset or reload you can make a different choice, but Until Dawn wants to instill a sense of permanence. Once you make a choice there is no going back. The only way to make a different choice is to start the entire game over. It's a nice touch that forces players to actually think about their decisions. Especially as the majority of them have insane consequences.

The game isn't just making decisions, however. Sometimes you'll take control and be able to explore your environment. But when things actually really get going you'll be given opportunities to really test your reflexes. During some of the games more harrowing moments you'll find yourself having to make snap decisions in a limited time frame. You'll have to quickly rush to the aid of a character, for example, and the game is going to give you a series of quick time events to do it. Screwing up could mean the death of a friend or just slow you down... you never know. Do you keep playing it safe taking the safe paths? Or do you rush and put yourself in danger? Either way the game provides quick time events and if you screw up there's no instant "game over" you just have to sit there and live with the consequences of your failure. Normally I'm not a big fan of quick time events, but I actually felt some of them (not all) were actually important. They provided a sense of urgency.

Of course there are moments where the events being on a timer didn't feel like they mattered. But this is done to help you understand that in some of Until Dawn's decisions (the timed ones anyway) it's okay to do absolutely nothing. Early on, for instance, you have a choice to pelt a bird with a snowball. It's a timed decision but doing so actually has drastic consequences. Do you keep nature in balance or do you not? I was surprised that not only was it a butterfly effect decision, but that it was a major decision. Then again, that's the point of the butterfly effect. The smallest things you do are often the ones which have the biggest consequences.

All of this is thrown into a fairly interesting story that's littered all over with horror tropes you're familiar with. The difference between Until Dawn and watching a typical horror movie, however, is that you actually get to choose what will happen. If you've ever been watching a horror movie and found yourself screaming at characters investigating a noise or splitting up... you get a chance to be in control of all of these things. As such because the choices are yours you'll find that you can actually subvert a lot of tropes or invert them. And sometimes playing to the typical horror movie tropes can save you in instances where they shouldn't, or kill you instances where they should've saved you. It makes playing and experiencing Until Dawn far more interesting than watching a horror movie itself.

Until Dawn sets its horror up perfectly. The first few jump scares are characters usually playing jokes on one another, disguised as intense moments. They freak you out but... end up putting your mind at ease. Jump scares are usually ineffective in a lot of games, but they work in Until Dawn simply because its early moments begin to prime you for the more serious ones. As the game settles in and gets cozy the scares become more frightening thanks to Until Dawn relying more on the player's anticipation for the scare as opposed to going all in for the jump scare. It creates a great atmosphere. The characters also play into this just as well. The seven teenagers you control end up making a lot of bad jokes and spitting off a lot of goofy one-liners as the game begins, but they're just goofy enough that you actually start to like them. Very few video games do well on making silly, goofy teenagers actually be silly goofy teenagers. So many focus so much on angst that they forget that teenagers actually have dynamic emotions. Until Dawn captures this dynamic perfectly that some characters actually become charming and you want to save everyone.

The game is broken up into ten chapters, with each lasting about an hour a piece. In between each chapter you'll be talking to a psychologist who seems to be breaking the fourth wall, addressing the player directly. During these moments in between he'll make comments about your play style as well as have you make other decisions. A lot of these things feel like they don't carry weight at first, but eventually the game ties this all together in an interesting way.

Graphically, Until Dawn is a gorgeous sight on the eyes. There are a lot of games out there that utilize the raw power of their console, without actually giving credit to a game's art direction. Until Dawn makes sure to not just be a powerful game, but making good use of the style of the game as well. Some spaces feel cramped. Others are extremely dark while there are haunting images and uncomfortable sights on the wall. The game evokes a horror atmosphere that begins to make your trek through the game feel unsettling. Until Dawn never opts to let up either. The game's use of sound may actually be better. You'll hear odd noises and the the notes in the music can sometimes hit eerie heights. But what really drives a lot of it home are the sound effects. The uncomfortable whistling of the wind outside, the noises of the animals throughout or sometimes even just the realization that something is off and the sound is constantly letting you know this. The voice acting is also incredibly well done. There are a lot of cheesy and strange lines, but after a while you don't really mind because you ARE playing around in a horror game, after all. A little bit of cheese is not only welcome by this point, but expected. It keeps Until Dawn's moments a little light even in the event of despair.

Thanks to the structure of the game it also has surprisingly high replay value. If you messed up you'll want to go through the game and try to save everyone (or maybe you're one who is curious to see how everyone meets their end). The game isn't terribly long, but there are a lot of ways to experience it and you'll find yourself replaying just to see how everything can potentially turn out. The game's length is designed so that you can keep experiencing and changing the fate of the game itself.

Until Dawn was certainly a game that surprised me. It's a horror game, but also an adventure one where you make various decisions. Those decisions actually matter, and I was surprised at just how engaging the game could be. Of course, Until Dawn isn't perfect. It's a great experience and one that most gamers will love and enjoy. It's good enough that some of its issues aren't always noticeable. The first and most obvious is that you're playing a game full of choices that sometimes consist of quick time events and timed decisions. In these kinds of games sometimes you need to play through once and fail before you can play through and succeed. Quick time events may feel appropriate in Until Dawn, but they haven't solved the number one issue of quick time events: that if you don't know they're coming you're likely to fail simply because you had no time to prepare. Until Dawn tries to solve this issue by making sure to telegraph that you're going through some harsh terrain such as when you're asked to decided to go the safe route or the more dangerous one. Obviously the dangerous one is going to have more to it. But then the game throws in other quick time events like giving someone a high five... and if you miss it, well... you strangely find yourself screwing up that relationship.

The other big thing is that while A LOT of decisions in Until Dawn have profound effects such as the Butterfly Effect, the game is also having you make mundane decisions a lot that don't really matter. Decisions that neither improve your status or relationships and that don't affect the narrative at all. They might reflect how some characters respond, but that doesn't mean they impact the story. This is a smaller nitpick, however. Until Dawn still does a better job of presenting your decisions as important in a way that games like The Walking Dead don't.

The last thing is that sometimes walking feels clumsy. You spend a lot of time walking but often times those controls are kind of clunky. Every now and then I couldn't line up with something I was supposed to interact with because walking was sometimes just that strange and clumsy. There are also moments were you have to sit perfectly still as opposed to pressing anything but like the quick time events, if you don't know these moments are coming you might screw them up if you're the type of gamer to fidget a lot. Again, this one is more of a nitpick. Until Dawn's problems aren't enough to pull you out of the experience entirely, but they are enough to jar you just a bit during the experience that you have to take a moment to get sucked in again. It usually doesn't take long to get sucked back in.

All that said, Until Dawn is a good game. It's a great experience filled with some good characters. Giving the player the opportunity to subvert classic horror tropes allows for a lot of replay value and agency that a lot of adventure games don't have. Your choices feel impactful and like they matter--even in instances where they don't. Players looking for a great horror gaming experience will find it here.

Fallout 4 Vault Dweller's Survival Guide Collector's Edition: Prima Official Game Guide
Fallout 4 Vault Dweller's Survival Guide Collector's Edition: Prima Official Game Guide
by David S. J. Hodgson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $26.48
81 used & new from $13.74

138 of 162 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It's More Like a Bloated Instruction Manual, November 16, 2015
Generally speaking, over the past few years Prima guides haven't really been bad. In fact with how useful their Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition guide was and how incredibly handy it was to have their HUGE Skyrim Legendary Edition guide, I was expecting a bit more from Prima than this. This guide is big. You'd assume a really big guide would be jam packed with information, but it isn't. Not only does Prima's Fallout 4 guide require a LOT of navigation to get all the information you need out of it, but the information itself isn't in depth in any way.

To begin, the guide looks pretty good. The cover (at least of the collector's edition) is very nice and the pages are perfectly glossy (even if a little thin). But the layout and design are usually pretty simple to follow. It doesn't quite thematically breathe Fallout the way the Fallout 3 guide did, but upon first flipping through it you'd be forgiven for thinking that it was a really in-depth guide. After all, it's thick, every page is filled with screenshots, tables and what looks to be information. But... what does that information say? How does it guide the player? This is where the guide becomes problematic.

The guide jumps right in, attempting to help you understand the game. It'll tell you about the basic things that the game itself will tell you. For those hoping to get more information on the various systems and how they work the guide doesn't go far. It doesn't necessarily have to, but it also doesn't spend a lot of time here. Once we get to the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. perks, though the guide begins to show the flaw that's going to keep players from truly mastering Fallout 4. Everything concerning your attributes and perks are things the game itself already tells you. There are no suggestions as to how to utilize or suggestions for players who wish to play a specific way. So much of what's here is ripped directly from the game itself. There's no real strategy or suggestions of how to utilize the perks to your advantage.

Going beyond that the guide mostly talks about other basics. It'll tell you things such as how combat works (a very basic rundown) before going on to detail the enemies you'll run into. There are only a couple of paragraphs. No strategies on how to fight these enemies, or suggestions but I suppose that I can deal with. We then go into things like your inventory where there are lots of tables. I don't have too many qualms here except for one: Your weapons. The guide only tells you the most basic of basic things about the weapons. Every now and then there are some tips, but the guide spends far more time telling you ABOUT the weapons rather than giving tips on how to USE the weapons or how best to customize the weapons. The guide talks briefly about mods... but once again it spends a lot of time telling you ABOUT them and not how to utilize them.

Even if you manage to get through all that, the walkthrough itself is going to be terribly problematic. Before the walkthrough there is a list of all the quest, but I found this to be quite useless in comparison. For instance, it's great that it tells me the quest type, but... I'd like to know where it is. It tells you what page to find the quest on but say you want to do a quest in a specific location... it won't tell you. It just won't tell you where it is in the game.

I understand that Fallout 4 doesn't exactly present a great main story. The joy of Fallout 4 is roaming the wasteland and finding and discovering the individual quests, not necessarily your own. The world is pretty cool. Apparently Prima thought similarly. The guide only takes twenty pages or so to cover the main quest. This is because each quest is only given a handful of paragraphs dedicated to it. Sometimes those paragraphs are used to tell you absolutely nothing. Near the beginning of the game when going through Sanctuary, for instance, the guide tells me to explore, but at no point helps point me in the direction of potentially useful items or prepares me for some the hazards I might face. At times the guide MIGHT mention enemies you might encounter and at other times it doesn't say anything. The hazards is a far worse, though. Certainly it's important to explore without really knowing what's coming. But if I'm going to spend a good deal of money on a strategy guide (whether for a collector's item or not) then it's not unfair to expect the guide to give me as much detail as it possibly can. At no point has this guide made me feel secure in what it is I'm doing. There's usually an enemy it doesn't mention. A hazard it doesn't talk about. It rarely points items out in the walkthrough.

There are more quests the guide covers beyond the main stuff, but it's mostly the same. A lot of paragraphs that usually describe the quest but don't guide you through it, while explaining to you what the game is already telling you. There are hardly any real details on what to do. Usually it's something basic like... "Explore this area." Each quest usually has a list of objectives and places to explore listed as well. This is great, but going beyond this the guide doesn't feel it needs to tell you HOW to obtain those objectives or what's worth exploring. The guide will usually point you to somewhere in the middle to look for a map. We'll come back to this as well. The point is that the walkthrough and quest guide don't feel complete. They are peppered with good looking screenshots, but again, it's that you don't get enough details about these quests. And sometimes inbetween main quest missions it doesn't tell you what to do inbetween. Things you need to be doing inbetween quests the guide isn't always telling you about. Going from one main quest to another, for example, might actually require you to go through other areas. But since it's not a "quest" the guide just simply opts not to mention anything about it. It's SOMEWHERE in the walkthrough, but because it's not a "main" quest it's not going to be found in that section. It might show up in one of the other quest sections, but you're going to have to basically flip through the guide to find it.

The walkthrough also has lots of helpful tips from Vault Boy... but often it's just repeating a lot of things the game itself is actually telling you. They're not so much helpful as they are redundant. And the entire walkthrough is sometimes written in this manner. The game will tell you something and you'll often read the walkthrough to find it describing what an NPC just told you and not necessarily how to go about it. There's so much fluff in the guide at times that it was usually better to go online to figure out what I was looking for. To spend this much money on a guide to ultimately need to go online for information is pretty bad. In this day and age, a strategy guide is a supplement and not a necessity. Often they are collector's items. That isn't a good reason for a poorly constructed walkthrough, however. The Fallout 4 guide either holds back on a lot of detail or it just simply gives you the most basic of basic information. It's the difference between someone backseat gaming and someone playing the game with you.

After the walkthrough and quest guide we come to the workshop chapter. As with the rest of the guide it tells you a lot ABOUT the workshops but isn't going to help you utilize them. At times the Fallout 4 guide feels less like a strategy guide and more like a bloated instruction manual. After the workshops we then come to the maps. The maps section is the biggest section of the guide by far. Taking up HALF the guide itself. Sure enough most of these maps are good. It shows you a huge map before going region by region. In each region it'll then go through all the primary locations where it actually shows you the area itself. The guide is less interested in showing you all the wilderness in between these primary locations. Each section in the walkthrough usually will send you to the map if you want a good idea of what the location looks like. While some of those items are shown in the walkthrough, they're definitely shown on the maps. You get an optimal route to get through an area and then they point out a few items. There are even small snippets of information here that even tell you some things you might want to do in these areas. I'm not sure why those things weren't included in the walkthrough. Sometimes it's even more precise in fewer words. At times it made more sense to just flip to this section of the guide than it was to use the actual walkthrough.

At first it seemed odd that the maps weren't in the walkthrough itself, but after utilzing the guide for a bit, I'm glad they weren't. The walkthrough would be far more hazardous to use. It made using the walkthrough a lot easier. The maps section also shows all the secondary locations. There aren't maps for these, but they're usually places on the over world map with a small bit to tell you about it. It's actually not a bad section. The only major nitpick here is that the legend only appears on the first page or so of the section. There are a lot of symbols to memorize. You might have to flip back to it from time to time.

The biggest problem with the guide isn't necessarily it's lackluster walkthrough. The bigger problem is definitely navigating the guide itself. Useful techniques, that even Prima used in the past, aren't used here. Most guides have a decent "tab" system. This is where you can get an idea where you should flip by looking at the tabs usually in the margin of the page. Each section has a tab at a different spot. A tab system helps players get an idea of what section starts where and how large it is. When flipping through you'll know if you've gone too far because the tabs have changed. I'm not sure why Prima didn't use a good tab system. Especially when they've used one in previous guides. Worse than a tab system, however, is the lack of an index. This guide is huge. Being able to pinpoint a quest (in more than just a list) would've been nice. There were times when I wanted to know WHERE a quest was and I had to flip through the guide endlessly to find it. An index would've easily solved these issues. Not just that, but for those who purchased the collector's edition guide... ribbon bookmarks would've been a nice addition. It would've helped with the page flipping.

Strategy guides are not really a necessity anymore. Guides are often supplements or collector's items now. Sometimes strategy guides can enhance the experience of the game. Prima's Fallout 4 guide doesn't really do anything. It doesn't supplement the game or enhance the experience. The extras included with the collector's edition guide are hardly enough to make up for how much information the guide just doesn't have. Prima's Fallout 3 guide felt complete. It was huge, but justifiably huge. Here the guide feels incomplete. Were it not for the maps it'd likely just be an overblown instruction manual. A walkthrough needs to do more than tell me what the game is telling me. It needs to actually guide. It needs to actually dive. For collector's the guide will certainly looks nice on a shelf. It's pretty and has some decent maps. But the problems with the walkthrough and the absurd amount of page flipping you'll need to do to find all the information you want don't make the guide a good companion.
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