Also available on Xbox One and Windows
Life is Strange is one of my absolute favorite choice-driven narrative games, and the prequel, Before the Storm, absolutely did not disappoint. I picked it up on Prime Day when it was like $10, and it quickly proceeded to devour the next three days of my life. It adds a TON of backstory for Chloe and really fleshes out her character, making you appreciate her all the more in the original game.
If you've played Life is Strange, then you know what to expect from Before the Storm. It plays pretty much exactly the same albeit without the time manipulation mechanic. Because it plays, looks, and sounds almost exactly the same, this is going to be a pretty brief review. You play as Chloe going through events about a year before the original game took place. Your choices and interactions with people through each episode affect elements of the story down the line. Some choices have a negligible effect whereas other choices will have severe and widespread consequences. It's that kind of agency and impact on the game world that really take immersion to the next level in my opinion, and the only folks who I've seen do it better than the Life is Strange dev team is TellTale, and being second to them is by no means a bad thing.
In addition to getting a firsthand look at the events that took place immediately prior to Life is Strange, there are several flashback sequences that do a lot of elaborate on the strained relationship between Chloe and her step-father, David, as well as the childhood experiences that helped shape Chloe into the dynamic character she later became. Those flashbacks really help you empathize a bit with Chloe and go a long way towards explaining some of her more questionable decisions. The writing, in addition to being able to evoke some strong emotional responses from the player, is brilliant with its humor both in design and in execution. Not only are there some fantastic joke lines, but they're delivered in a manner and with the timing to maximize their effect whereas such lines are often misused and ruin the mood of a scene.
Life is Strange: Before the Storm is everything that a prequel should be. It tells a gripping story, it fills in the backstory of its predecessor while answering some of the lingering questions with which players were originally left, and it tugs at the heartstrings with some incredibly emotionally charged scenes. It doesn't quite reach the stunningly impressive impact of the original game in my opinion, but it is nonetheless a superb follow-up and a definite must-play for any gamer who appreciates well-developed characters, a powerful narrative, and engrossing world-building. I absolutely recommend it.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on Xbox One and Windows
XCOM 2: War of the Chosen is DLC for XCOM 2, but it's really more "XCOM 2 Plus" than traditional DLC. The core storyline is the same, and all of the content from the base game is untouched, but there's a bunch of extra stuff. Extra abilities, extra missions, three entirely new optional mission lines with end bosses that give some seriously dope weapons. All in all, though, it's really just the base game plus some extras.
Most of the game is the same as XCOM 2, so this is going to be extremely brief; read my review of the base game if you're curious. The visuals haven't had any kind of adjustments nor has the sound design. There is some new voice acting, though, for the new enemy characters, and that's done extremely well. The additions here are all gameplay, and there are three big additions - the three "Chosen" optional bosses, the three resistance factions, and The Lost. The Chosen are naturally the biggest of the three since that was the name of the DLC. The Chosen are three specialized assassins sent to kill the Commander and destroy XCOM, and each of them has a unique fighting style. When defeated, they each drop unique and obscenely powerful weapons; one drops a sniper rifle and pistol, one drops an assault rifle, and one drops a shotgun and sword.
As for the other changes, the Resistance factions tie in with The Chosen. Each Resistance faction gives you some bonus "orders" that are basically passive buffs that you can apply - things like cheaper weapons, faster research, more likely to be incapacitated as opposed to outright dead, etc. You can also send each faction's operatives on missions that run in the background. These missions will give you more credits, speed some research, unlock new research, etc. Among these missions are ones required to find the hideout for each of The Chosen. Each faction also has its own unique soldier class, so it's definitely worth investing some time and attention into each of them.
Despite being arguably the less prominent of those three big additions, my favorite addition is The Lost. Did you ever find yourself playing XCOM and thinking "You know what this game needs? Zombies."? Well, the gods have heard your prayers. The Lost are like a cross between your traditional zombies and the husks from Mass Effect. No one really knows why, but something about the alien technology left over from the war started turning people into creatures that look like zombies, act like zombies, and attack and swarm indiscriminately like zombies. You don't, however, have to worry about turning into one if you're bitten; the cause seems to be some kind of chemical or radiation, not a virus or spore. The Lost serve as a sort of rogue "third" side in battles where they're present. While they definitely go after you harder than they do ADVENT troops, they'll attack whoever's nearest. Another horde is also summoned by any explosion, so try to aim away from cars and keep your grenades on the ship.
XCOM 2: War of the Chosen is a truly fantastic expansion to a truly fantastic game. Unfortunately, it suffers from big issues; just like the base game, there are a LOT of crashing issues on PS4, and I feel that the DLC is a bit overpriced for what it is. $20 or $25 would be more appropriate in my opinion (hence why I waited until it was on sale for $23 to buy it). Despite that, however, it's still a fantastic experience and makes and already fantastic game incredible. Without a doubt, I recommend downloading it. I'd get it on PC if you have the option as I suspect it's more stable, but no matter how you play it, War of the Chosen is definitely the definitive way to experience the XCOM 2 story. Just be prepared for it to crash. A lot.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on Windows
Nurse Love Addiction is basically the perfect visual novel for me (as far as what would actually make it onto a console), and I mean that in all of the creep ways you're probably thinking. Post-secondary students at a nursing school in a story filled with lesbian pseudo-incest (basically the whole "step-sister" trope) and a surprisingly interesting plot albeit one that's a bit slow to get started. Best of all is that there are nine endings, so for super ecchi lords like me, there's enough here to keep you busy for a decent little while.
The basic story of Nurse Love Addiction is that two sisters enroll at a nursing school together for reasons that I can only describe as "anime af." The older sister enrolled because she wrote in a book "I want to be a nurse when I grow up!" when she was a little kid and spend the rest of her life thinking "Well, I wanted to do it when I was a kid, and I don't want to do anything now, so I guess I'll do this!" The younger sister enrolls because she seems hellbent on following the older sister everywhere for the rest of her life. I'm not kidding. When they're there, they meet two particularly bright personalities, a rich girl with a hoity-toity attitude that wouldn't be out of place for a family with a nine digit income and her girlfriend, a blunt-to-a-fault tomboy from a poor family and a motorcycle.
What adds the bit of plot point foreshadowed early on is that your main character has amnesia. As a kid, she at some point hit her head and lost her entire memory. Something something plot devices. I won't say anything more than that because it is a pretty cool story once it gets going, and with the different branches that it can take based on what waifu you pick. Each of the game's five core characters have unique and interesting personalities, and while they do hit the big anime tropes - you've got your tsundere, you've got your borderline yandere, etc - the characters themselves are pretty well written. Unfortunately, the game crashed on me a couple times leading to a couple hours' worth being lost between the crashes.
Being a visual novel, there aren't any moving 3D character models to animate, so some of my pet peeves like hair clipping through shoulders are avoided. As a result, the 2D character images are absolutely fantastic, and the voice acting - all in Japanese, by the way - is great. My only real gripe with the visuals is that there aren't many backgrounds, and for a visual novel that took me around 25 hours to get through, it would have been nice to see a little bit of variety in the image backdrops. Other than that, it looks great. Unfortunately, it does suffer from a bit of the game fatigue problem that a lot of Shin Megami Tensei games have with me - it just lasts too long. It's a really good story with great characters, but it just lasts longer than it probably ought to.
Nurse Love Addiction is a very enjoyable visual novel and one of the few good ones that I've played on Vita. It gets a bit tedious and drags on a bit longer than it should, but it's still a really enjoyable story, and since it's on a handheld that you can just put in sleep mode and then pick up whenever you have five or ten minutes here or there, it's a perfect fit. It's one of the best pooping games I've ever played on Vita. It's not without its flaws, though. I had some crashes, and as I said, it wears out its welcome. I absolutely recommend giving it a download if you see it on sale, though. I wouldn't dish out the money for the Limited Run release like I did unless you collect LRG releases (like I do) or just LOVE ecchi VNs (like I do), but definitely give it a download.
My Rating - 3 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.