by Joseph Sweeney | editor-in-chief
GameStop: Power to the Players is a slogan I’m sure everyone, not just gamers, have heard numerous times in their lives. And with current events transpiring the way they have, you might think I’m here to talk about power in regards to the stock market, but, GameStop in-fact empowers their customer’s wallets in more ways than just their stock prices. Take a trip to your nearest GameStop location, and you may find some great prices on pre-owned games that are only a few years old for current-gen systems. Some of the greatest and most interesting titles remain forgotten, however, leaving many options for avid-gamers and more casual-players alike.
Quantum Break (Xbox One, Windows)
Developed by Remedy Entertainment, known for the Alan Wake series, Quantum Break is a third-person shooter involving time-manipulation mechanics similar to something out of The Matrix. Quantum Break remains probably one of the most forgotten games of the last console generation, especially so given the large amount of hype and budget put towards the project, along with it being one of the first major Xbox One exclusives after Halo 5’s release in 2015.
As far as its actual shooting mechanics go, Quantum Break fails to stand out, falling into the typical third-person shooter formula of: find cover, shoot, advance in-cover, shoot, pick-up the optimal weapons, shoot. But, with the main character’s time-travel based abilities, this title manages to stand out. Aside from simply just freezing enemies in place to get the upper hand, the player can also use time dashes to get up-close and personal to melee enemies, disable their weapons, or even blow entire squads up. In certain areas, more experienced players can channel their inner-Neo and strafe side-to-side to dodge bullets. At a certain point, however, I do feel that many more experienced gamers may find themselves bored by the gameplay offerings here, as the mechanics are quick to master and quickly lose their satisfaction bonus on repeat playthroughs, even on higher difficulties.
To discuss the replayability of Quantum Break, we first have to address the ambition and shortcomings of the game’s story. Featuring B-list actors such as Shawn Ashmore and Aidan Gillen, known for playing Iceman in the original X-Men trilogy and Littlefinger in Game of Thrones respectively, Quantum Break was intended to be revolutionary in the world of video game storytelling. Aside from the actors being modeled into in-game cutscenes, a full five episode live action series was produced to supplement the rest of the games story, with one episode being played in-between each of the game’s five chapters.
The story follows Jack Joyce, portrayed by Ashmore, and his best friend turned mortal enemy Paul Serene, Gillen, who are both granted superpowers upon the malfunction of a time machine. Serene is sent to the end of time, ironically taking place in the year 2020, and proceeds to establish the Monarch Corporation to try and blindly stop the incident from happening, while Joyce discovers the continuous damage the organization is causing. Prior to each live-action episode being played, the player is also put into what the game calls a junction, where they play as Serene and make a choice regarding the path each of the main characters take. This is where the replayability aspect of the game takes form: with each junction having a high and low-morale road, the player can mix outcomes to their heart’s content on each recurring playthrough. Though each mission remains the same gameplay wise, and only a few select scenes are altered in the live-action episodes, the junctions still give an incentive to replay the game in a way that other titles do not.
Overall, I would recommend Quantum Break for those that are looking for something only a little different, while still not too challenging, in a third-person shooter. The game is available for $4.99 at GameStop, and $17.99 on Amazon.
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII (Xbox 360, Xbox One* Playstation 3, Windows)
*Playable via Xbox One backwards compatibility
The thirteenth entry in the long-running Japanese RPG franchise was met with controversy upon its release in 2010. Though many newcomers, such as myself, enjoyed the game as an introduction to the genre, most players acknowledged that the story, though containing great characters and moments, was heavily convoluted. On top of that, many gameplay elements had to be scrapped by developer Square Enix after the decision was made to launch the game on multiple platforms, rather than sticking to Playstation exclusivity like the series’ previous entries had. To make up for these unused assets, a sequel was released in 2012, confusingly titled Final Fantasy XIII-2, which served as an derivative, unnecessary and even more convoluted follow-up to the first installment. Finally, in 2013, to wrap up the retroactively made Final Fantasy XIII Trilogy, a completely different type of game was released, that being Lightning Returns.
With it being a sequel, one would expect to have to play the previous two entries to enjoy Lightning Returns, but that is not the case here. The story remains mostly separate from the events of the first two games, with only the main characters returning here and there. To give a brief summary: Claire Farron, also known as Lightning, was sent to the end of time after saving the world in the first game, while her sister Sara, the protagonist from the second game, has gone missing. As Lightning, the player must navigate throughout the world to save as many souls as possible before the end of the world.
Going along with the apocalyptic theme, gameplay is restricted under a strict time-limit of 13 in-game days, equal to about an hour each in real-time. Aside from battles and cinematics, virtually everything in Lightning Returns consumes in-game time, whether that be resting, fast-traveling, or exploring. Though the time-limit can be extended by completing side quests, running out of time will lead to a gameover, and requiring the player to either restart their journey, or revert to a previous save game. This may be a fault for some players seeking a game with more forgiving gameplay, as the stressful gameplay can deter some from wanting to continue.
Rather than taking the previous entries’ approach in building teams to fight through each area, Lightning Returns stars Lightning as the sole protagonist. In the middle of battle, the player can change her armour loadout to suit a variety of moves and playstyles to conquer many different types of enemies. Battles take place in small circular arenas where the player is given free range to move around to help employ their actions more effectively in what is essentially a 3D-fighting game combat style.
While maybe not very appealing to long-time fans of the series, Lightning Returns still serves as a great action RPG for those looking for something new in the genre, though it may be stressful and unforgiving at times. The game is available for $4.99 at GameStop and $39.99 on Amazon.
ReCore (Xbox One, Windows)
Considering the developer, Level-5 Comcept, is well renowned for its many failed gaming endeavours, such as Mighty No. 9, a crowd-funded spiritual successor of the Megaman series that was later deemed “painfully average” by critics, as well as Red Ash: The Indelible Legend, another crowd-funded project that simply never came out, you may be surprised that the same studio’s 2016 action-platform title ReCore is actually quite good.
Gameplay is relatively simple on-the-surface. Similar to a Megaman or Metroid game, the weapon of choice remains an automatic rifle, with the player being able to lock onto enemies to not only rapid-fire, but also release more powerful charged shots. The player is also able to switch between different colored shots—red, blue, yellow, and colorless, to be specific—to match with their enemy’s appearance to cause more damage or inflict statuses such as burn on them. While this style of combat may sound easy at first, when you combine it with the game’s platforming elements of jumping, double-jumping, and boosting, combat can become intense and extremely fast paced when against larger groups of foes.
Exploration is similar to that of certain triple-A titles, such as Xenoblade Chronicles, where the player is able to explore freely and make use of their robotic companions, called “corebots,” to traverse the land, explore dungeons, and topple enemies, while collecting spare parts to upgrade corebots and to unlock more optional areas. Navigation can be monotonous, however, as without a proper mini-map or compass, it can be difficult to know which direction you are heading in, and lead to you constantly pausing and unpausing the game just to look at the world map and make sure you’re headed the right way.
The story, though not as in-depth or thought provoking as the other games on this list, still remains charming in a way similar to Pixar’s WALL-E, with the main character Joule and her corebot companions attempting to rebuild human civilization. After a plague, which, again, coincidentally happened in the year 2020, swept through most of humanity, Joule was left aboard a vessel bound for a new home known as “Far Eden.” With her dog-like corebot Mack, Joule sets out not only to find the rest of the humans that were aboard her crashed ship, but also her father from whom she was separated.
ReCore is a good pick for those looking for a “don’t take me too seriously” sort of game, though it lacks polish to be enjoyed by those that take their gaming a bit more seriously. Aside from navigation being tedious, the game suffers from numerous bugs and glitches, from dungeons not loading properly to unnecessary slow-down and long load times, especially for a game that, graphically speaking, looks a number of years outdated. Still, when it does work, the game manages to shine through with fast-paced combat and likeable characters. The game is available for $9.99 at GameStop and $14.99 on Amazon.