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Strange Ranger - Remembering the Rockets Music Album Reviews

The best album of the Philadelphia band’s deep and underappreciated catalog dares to ask what comes after indie rock.
For Strange Ranger, indie rock isn’t just a genre; it’s an actual lifestyle, the prism through which every aspect of adulthood can be projected and understood. The 2016 album Rot Forever, by an earlier incarnation of the band, started its 72 minutes of Up Records fanfic with the line “She played rock guitar” and peaked with “Won’t you come see Pile with me?” Going by the name Sioux Falls at the time, core members Isaac Eiger and Fred Nixon were kids in Bozeman, Montana, who were prone to let one or two ideas stretch out for six minutes because that’s what their heroes Built to Spill and Modest Mouse would do. They moved to Portland for the followup, Daymoon, and it felt like a higher education, going deeper into the Pac NW canon and local scene politics (key song: “House Show”). They’re now in Philadelphia, and Remembering the Rockets is everything one might expect from…





Code Vein Preview

Code Vein is the upcoming RPG from Bandai Namco that attempts to fill the hole left by the Dark Souls series. We got to take an early look and here is what we think.

Should I buy Code Vein?
Code Vein brings Dark Souls combat and mechanics to a Japanese-style RPG. With a more accessible story and familiar themes, an extremely expansive character creator and a wide array of weapons and builds to try, Code Vein is shaping up to be a very impressive title.

Price When Reviewed
  • TBA
Every now and then a game comes along that creates a new genre. Demon Souls, developed by From Software and published by Bandai Namco, did this back in 2009 as it brought forward a style of RPG that focused on being technically and mechanically challenging.

This was followed by the Dark Souls series which drew much more attention and brought this hardcore-focused genre further towards the mainstream - although this was mostly because of its notorious difficulty rather than its mass appeal. Dark Souls 3 saw the conclusion of the series in 2016 which left a gap in Namco Bandai’s stable of games for that challanging .

Code Vein is attempting to fill this gap keeping the challenging gameplay than people love about the Souls series, whuke fusing it with systems and mechanics found in Japanes style RPGs.

While Bandai Namco published the Souls Series and is responsible for the development of Code Vein, From Software was responsible for the development of the games, and their recently released title Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is more of a direct successor to the Dark Soul’s series.

When Will Code Vein Be Released?
The release date for Code Vein is still unconfirmed. It was originally set to launch on 28 Septermber 2018 but was pushed back to 2019.

The game is in a very high state of polish if the first hour or two of the game are anything to go by, so we’d expect a release date in late Q3/early Q4 2019 if we had to guess.

What Platforms Will Code Vein Be Released On?
Code Vein will be available on the PS4, Xbox One and the PC.

We played it on the PS4 Pro and we’re happy to say it ran very smoothly too, so you won’t encounter any performance woes.

To sum it up simply, Code Vein feels like a cross between the Dark Souls series and a Japanese RPG.

More specifically, the mechanics and gameplay will feel very similar if you’re a Dark Souls fan, but when it comes to the building of your character, the menus, the narrative, art style and character progression it will feel much closer to Zelda or Final Fantasy.

The version of the game we played started with a character creation screen that was actually extremely impressive. If you’ve always wanted to make your own anime vampire then you’re in luck here, as you’ll be able to put together something adorable and cute or pretty horrific looking without too much trouble.
We were then dropped into a tutorial that was fairly jarring in terms of any narrative progression. I’ve personally always been a fan of games that incorporate the tutorial into the first level or find a way to teach you the game in a more subtle way, and sadly that wasn’t the case here.

Code Vein drops you onto a platform and starts telling you about which buttons to press and what everything does. This goes on for some time and was approaching information overload for me, but that’s just my personal preference - none of this takes away from the interesting core progression mechanics that the game holds.

The game opens up with a few cut scenes that help set the stage. The narrative, character design and story all scream a JRPG influence which tends to be fairly polarising. It feels much more like you’re playing Final Fantasy than Dark Souls in this respect.

The mechanics and gameplay are much closer to Dark Souls than anything else, as it’s a much slower pace than Sekiro or even Bloodbourne. This makes the combat more methodical and slow paced for certain, but no less challenging because of that. The animation locks in this game ensure that once you’ve started an attack it will be finished, so if you miss-time something you’ll be committed.

The opening level I played was awash with various pickups and items, including weapons and armour. These had a wide variety of stats on display for those of us that like to min-max, with slow two-handed weapons and much faster single-handers to suit every play style.

One of the most interesting features of the gameplay is that of your character’s Blood Trait, which you can slot in and out of your character at any time, and functions almost like a class. These traits come with boosts to your base stats, stamina and health and also unlock specific abilities too.

For example, you start with the Fighter trait that gives a solid amount of strength and dexterity but lower casting stats. The Berserker trait gives you extremely high strength and endurance, but lower dexterity making it ideal for those who prefer slower two-handed weapons that scale very well with raw strength.

The abilities linked to your trait are spent with blood that you can acquire as you move through the levels, which like spirit emblems in Sekiro. This allows you to use those abilities without fear that you’ll need to save them for later on.

The level design is set up to be tricky, to say the very least. You’ll have to think about how you approach each situation as its very easy for things to spiral out of control, with combinations of melee and ranged monsters attack you at once if you’re not careful.
The boss fights, as with much of the game in general, were extremely reminiscent of Dark Souls. You’ll find large creatures with multiple phases that will drop some cool loot. The first major boss that I got to kill gave some solid weight to the story too, managing to make you feel guilty for an earlier choice and attaching you to the world very early on.

Code Vein is shaping up to be a very solid RPG. Having just finished Sekiro, I found it easy to get to grips with the combat but I’m probably in a minority there. The game will provide a substantial challenge with a much more direct story that you’d find in a Souls game. Combine this with an extremely impressive character creator and many different ways to build and play your character, and we think Bandai Namco are onto a winner here.

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