Release roundup: DOOM Eternal (Switch), DARQ & Phoenix Point

Sometimes you’ll exciting new releases that aren’t actually new games, but ports or re-releases of earlier titles. We’re checking out three of them today with the Nintendo Switch version of Doom Eternal, a complete edition for horror-puzzler DARQ and the Year One Edition of Phoenix Point, which is available now on Steam with a launch discount of 50%.

Doom Eternal (Switch)

Doom Eternal is probably the most ambitious port to date for the Nintendo Switch, joining the ranks of The Witcher 3 and of course the Switch version of the original Doom reboot from 2016. Eternal is a 2020 title though, and the original PC and console release from March already pushed the envelope further than the 2016 version did.

When we reviewed Doom Eternal back in March we commented on how it was such an adrenaline rush to play thanks to the fast-paced gameplay where you perform bullet-drenched dances as you navigate between pick-ups, power-ups, glory kills and challenging boss fights. The pace of it all really makes the game, more so than the visuals do, and that was both a challenge and a benefit in this Switch port.

On the one hand, you already know that the visuals are going to be taking a serious hit on the Switch – especially when you take it out of the dock and play in handheld mode. But while Call of Duty, especially in the single player campaigns, really excels through its visuals and lifelike narrative drama, Doom Eternal’s look and feel is much more about orchestrated chaos and gore with hellish creatures – which scales down a lot better than going into battle with human NPCs does.

doom eternal

So while the visual hit is something that’s to be expected and (to a degree) acceptable, rock solid performance becomes ever so important in the process. Panic Button was once again on porting duty and they seem to realize this very well, because Doom Eternal on the Switch runs at a solid 30 frames per second. Sure, that’s half of what you’re getting on a PC or regular console, but it’s mighty impressive for the Switch. Even when things get frantic, the frame rate holds steady, and as a result you get a gameplay experience that is remarkably similar to the version we played in March.

And even though comparing Doom Eternal on the Switch to the previous version highlights that a significant part of the visual experience was sacrificed, comparing it to other Switch games yields a different result. This is a gorgeous title despite the sacrifice in frame rate and resolution, with tons of detail and every bit of content that other players got. To be able to play this on a handheld is a feat that few could have imagined a few years ago, yet here it is. If you were impressed with Killzone: Mercenary on the Vita, then this is the Switch’s answer to portable first person shooting. The gameplay survives fully intact, and if you don’t have access to the (visually) superior console/PC versions then you should definitely pick this one up. If you go so before December 22, you even get free access to Doom 64, which was also ported to the Switch!

DARQ – Complete Edition

DARQ originally released back in 2019 for PCs, but is now available as a complete edition on consoles (PS4 and Xbox One) as well, a version that includes both of the post-launch DLC packages.

darq2

Thematically, DARQ plays out in a dreamworld with a boy called Lloyd who just can’t seem to wake up from his dream even though he realizes he isn’t actually awake and nothing around him is real. It’s something that was previously explored in games (Ocean’s 1993 puzzle/platformer Sleepwalker had a sleeping boy and 2014’s Back to Bed was a puzzle game based on the same principle), but my mind kept going to Little Nightmares as a comparison, even though DARQ is more a puzzler than a platformer.

The reason for that is that DARQ also taps into that nightmarish feel that some dreams can descend into, and Lloyd’s certainly do. The visual style for the game is full of shadows and creepy little details, constantly giving you a sense that bad things are lurking in the dark. For a small indie game, it’s a very good looking adventure as well, with plenty of details and atmosphere.

What also helps give the game a unique audiovisual feel is that, in a dream world, anything is possible. Lloyd quickly finds this out as he bends gravity to his will by walking on walls and ceiling – the game’s perspective changing when he does. Manipulating items in the environment can also bring unexpected results as entire rooms transform and move in or out of the screen in an instant. In that sense, DARQ does a great job with the qualities of a dream world where anything is possible – except conjuring up a door to immediately get out and wake up. To do that, Lloyd has to navigate through a series of puzzles in what is a relatively short adventure.

darq

That brevity was one of the main issues in the original release of DARQ, so it’s nice to know that both the “Tower” and “Crypt” DLCs have been included in this new release. They’re both quite short, but they do pad the length of the experience out somewhat, and they both emphasize puzzle gameplay rather than the underwhelming stealth elements that can be found in the original game. If you’re looking forward to Little Nightmares II, then this is a great way to help pass the time.

Phoenix Point – Year One Edition 

When we originally reviewed Phoenix Point last year, it was based on a pre-release version made available for the purpose of the review. That may account for a few bugs here and there, but when the game launched players still complained about the game needing a bit more polish, balance changes, additions and other fixes. Now, it’s been re-released as the “Year One Edition”, which also coincides with the introduction of the game on other platforms like Steam now that the exclusivity deal on Epic has ended. Is it an experience worth diving back into?

phoenix point2

Developer Snapshot games certainly didn’t sit still since the original release of the game, and have released three major DLC packs in the past year. Blood & Titanium, Legacy of the Ancients and Living Weapons all offer new content. They’re all included in the Year One Edition, which is also available for day 1 buyers for a budget friendly upgrade price (just like the main game, it’s 50% at the time of writing).

Blood & Titanium adds cybernetic enhancements to the mix, which thanks to CD Projekt Red is the flavor of the month this December. Here, the addition results in more tech trees to explore, which in turn leads to new abilities and thus new tactical options on the battlefield. Legacy of the Ancients has more of a “secrets of Atlantis” feel to it, as it focuses on a long-forgotten but highly advanced civilization and their tech – which can also be used in new mission types. And while the Living Weapons pack suggests the emphasis is more on weapons content, you’ll need to play specific missions to gain access to them first.

phoenix point

Most of that boils down to new content though, and the big question is if the Year One Edition also changes the core mechanics and overall feel of the game, and if it does so for the better. The fact that so much of the “new stuff” was just content made me a little wary, but I was very pleasantly surprise. Even the visuals – which may not be polished up to XCOM 2 standards – have gotten noticeably better in the last year, but the biggest changes can be found on the gameplay front.

From overhauled mechanics in terms of balance between the various units and that tactics that ensue from that down to much better computer-controller AI behavior, this is the game fans always expected to play when Julian Gollop announced his plays for a spiritual successor to his work on the early XCOM game. It’s also a lot more welcoming to newcomers, with good explanations of the core mechanics, differences between units and the abilities you can use to craft your own tactics and approaches. If you didn’t jump aboard last year, this is a great time to do so. If you did, it’s a good time to jump back in.

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