Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling Review

I am often presented with a dilemma about how I should operate this review site. For the most part, I am a firm believer that a game should be played in its entirety before I review it, or at least played for a large amount of time in the case of longer titles. Herein lies my problem. Bug Fables is an incredible game, and I want to commend it for everything it does right. That said, I have only played through about half of it because my fat thumbs are not capable of seeing it to its conclusion. I believe this game should be played by a large audience. It’s rather niche, but I feel like a ton of RPG fans that would not normally consider it would have a ton of fun. This is what is driving me to write this review, if you could call it that. Perhaps it is better suited as an impression piece, I don’t know. Suffice it to say, Bug Fables is a must play for any fan of the old school Paper Mario games, and would be thoroughly enjoyed by anyone looking for an RPG-Lite experience.

The primary thing that stands out with this game is the art style. It draws heavy inspiration from Paper Mario, and that is not a bad thing. It ensures the game will still be looking great 10 years from now. Most things are paper, from the two dimensional characters, to the buildings that are seen throughout your journey. It is a three dimensional world however, and there is actually a little bit of a contrast between everything that is paper, and the lands you traverse. At its best, when you enter a building, paper is folded back so that you can get a view of what the interior looks like. At its worst, you are trekking across a world you do not quite look a part of. Overall, there is more good than bad to be said about this art direction.

The gameplay is also a nod to Paper Mario on the N64, from the occasional, albeit weird platforming segments, to the straight rip-off of the combat system. I’m not saying it’s a rip-off in any bad sense of the term. It takes everything that was great about combat in Paper Mario, and fine tunes it for a more mainstream feel. Timed button presses, unique character abilities, it’s all on display here. Where it strays from the source material is in the combatants themselves. You are given three characters to play with throughout the entire game. There are no characters that pop in and out of the story. What you get a little ways into the game is what you get for the duration. Basic attacks remain the same between these three characters, but special moves are unique and require different button presses to perform.

To my pleasant surprise, combat differs through the ability to swap characters on a whim and to give each character the opportunity to give their turn away to someone better suited for the task at hand. For example, Vi can hit flying enemies, Kabbu can hit enemies out of their shell, and Leif can unearth burrowed enemies. When you are facing an enemy that suddenly flies in the air, and Vi has already taken a turn, Kabbu or Leif can give their turn to Vi so she can work her magic. The stipulation being that upon every additional turn any one character takes, their power is reduced. All in all the combat system is enjoyable, and never got old in my 10 hours of playing.

The music once again, you guessed it, is inspired by Paper Mario, with some tunes sounding eerily similar to the source material. Again, not a bad thing. Paper Mario was an incredible game with incredible music, and that is not lacking in this spiritual successor. I found myself enjoying the music so much that I went back and played the soundtrack a couple times. It is incredible, seriously, go listen to it. Sound effects are spot on too, with every boomerang knock to an enemy’s head inspiring cheers within my soul. This game was, simply put, very pleasing to both eyes and ears. Bug Fables does have one issue that I need to point out. The story is uninteresting to me, but I do see how some could come to love it. Again, I never finished the game, so I don’t know how it all plays out, but it seems like they played it very safe with many of the story elements. What it lacks in overarching story it makes up for in sheer talented writing. The writing in this game is incredibly charming. I never felt the need to button mash A through any of the dialogue, and it was very enjoyable. Each character gets developed through what they say and how they react to different situations, and it all just seems very believable. Like, if there actually was a rag-tag team of a bee, beetle, and moth thrown into a power struggle, this is exactly how they would speak and act. I’m just going to leave it at that.

As far as replay value goes, I feel I would be hard-pressed in finding people who desire to play it through multiple times. Heck, I couldn’t even get through it the first time. This was in large part due to a certain gameplay sequence that had me creeping around enemies, trying not to alert them to my presence so they don’t throw me back in jail. It was THE WORST. I typically hate gameplay segments that use a terrible stealth gimmick, where you have to stay out of enemies’ fields of view. It’s terrible. It sucked in Ocarina of Time, was worse in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on the original Xbox (look it up), and is terrible here. I would need some divine intervention to play through that again. No thank you.

Overall, Bug Fables is amazing. It hits all the right notes in most of the important aspects that make a good video game, but fell short for me in a very specific sequence. I still wanted to get the word out there that this game exists and is, for the most part, enjoyable. I loved it, until I hated it. End rant, end review.

Sound: 5/5

Gameplay: 5/5

Story: 3/5

Graphics: 5/5

Replay Value: 1/5

Total: 19/25 or 76/100

Monster Hunter: World Review

I never knew that a repetitive game could also have a ton of depth. It almost seems contradictory that so many layers can coexist with what would otherwise be mundane. Yet Monster Hunter: World strikes a balance between meaningful gameplay and looping advancement that never feels boring. There is no wonder that many gamers hold this game in high regard, it is simply a masterpiece.

I have invested over 120 hours into this game and have still only scratched the surface. MHW follows the story of a hunter accompanied by a cat and handler, as they track down the most powerful of monsters to gain intel on how and why they behave the way they do. The main quest line will take about 70 hours to complete if you do not get distracted by the plethora of side quests and captivating gameplay that ultimately makes you want to grind out the same monsters/locations until everything has been perfected. The most notable monsters are the Elder Dragons, the reason why the fifth fleet is even in the New World at all. The Research Commission orders your fleet (the fifth) to follow an Elder Dragon across the ocean in a ritual that happens about every decade or so, called the Elder Crossing. You are tasked with finding out why this phenomenon occurs and to better understand the monsters that inhabit the New World. You do this by tracking and slaying, or capturing a variety of creatures, big and small. The story plays out nicely, but almost seems like an afterthought as it takes a back seat to the enchanting gameplay.

There’s something so fundamentally fun about wielding weapons bigger than one can imaginably carry and slaying monsters that make those weapons look like butter knives. There’s immediate satisfaction with every broken part, mount, or trap targeted at a larger-than-life Kaiju. It all boils down to a pleasurable and addictive experience that literally has no end. It is not unheard of for some gamers to put over 1000 hours into this game, and that is because of the core gameplay mechanics. The game relies on a loop that has the player dropping into a world, hunting a creature to carve parts, returning to the forge to create weapons and armor from those parts, and rinsing and repeating. With every monster you slay you come one step closer to that elusive gear that can help you slay a different, more powerful monster. It all culminates in an unforgettable joy and satisfaction that I have never experienced in a game before. Grinding with immediate, noticeable rewards is almost unheard of in the video game industry. It just works so well and is one reason I can make the bold statement that MHW is perhaps my favorite game of all time. That’s right Ms. Pac Man, sit down.

When I say this game has depth, I’m really talking about the player statistics, skills, weapon classes, and weapon and armor variety. There seems to be no end to the variables that go into the strength of your character. Leveling is not as simple as most RPGs where you are given a level that determines your stats. Instead, all your strengths and weaknesses come from the equipment you choose to carry, making skill variety much more robust. You can adjust your skillset and statistics to combat specific monsters or fight at a disadvantage in the coolest armor like a fashionista. The choice is yours. And choice is what this game amounts to. You choose the quests among an extensive list of quest-types: assigned, optional, investigations, events, and SOS flares. There is a great deal of possibilities in this game, and it is up to the gamer to realize his path. You can choose to play solo, with up to 3 other friends, or with up to 3 other strangers; but this game is best experienced with friends. The one downfall to this feature is that you can only join friends’ quests that you have already watched the cutscene for, and only if your friend has also viewed the cinematic, resulting in a system where players must join quests in progress. This is but a minor gripe I experienced with the game, and for the most part is easily looked past. And what you look at past this is ravishing.

This game is a diamond among coals from a visual standpoint. Monsters and ecosystems are lively, almost looking better than real life. My jaw dropped when I first visited the Ancient Forest, and it stayed there as I unlocked more and more ecosystems to explore. The attention to detail is what truly enriches the experience. Every jagged cut in a coral wall, waterfall in a shallow river, and moss-covered tree have some of the most detailed surfaces I’ve seen from contemporary games. The monsters themselves look vividly real with each rigid, rough dip in their skin, cracking away as they are pummeled into oblivion. The one downfall I notice in graphics is how poorly weapons and armor interact with each other, with swords protruding through capes and fur. This is rather disappointing but is only seen in contrast to the beauty of the rest of the game. Truly, it is nitpicking at its finest.

The music includes some epic, awe-inspiring rhythms that fit perfectly with the heated monster battles you are sure to have. Opposing these beats are lighter, more campy tunes that reflect light-hearted tasks such as the chef preparing an unruly amount of food for you before a hunt. These songs are never misplaced, and the soundtrack has a nice balance of serious songs and playful songs alike. The battle music serves to pump you up during a fight, while the campy tunes allow you to relax and decompress when those fights are over.

This game had me consistently coming back for more, and much can be said about the addictive quality of it all. In terms of replay value, I don’t see why anyone would want to restart the story, as the further you are in the game the more depth there is. Again, the story seems to be put on the backburner and there is not enough incentive to trudge through it again. This is not necessarily a bad thing though, because the game is limitless, with enough content to sustain any gamer for over 100 hours. While it does not cater to people that want to repeat the story, I was hard pressed to find boredom with the one save file I did make. It is for this reason I will score that aspect of the game relatively high. Not because there’s value in replaying it, but because there’s a ton of value in continuing to play it.

Ultimately, Monster Hunter: World does a lot right, and should Capcom release another in the future, I will be very much inclined to throw my money at it. As hard as I try to remain critical of this game, I had so much fun with it that I’m finding it difficult to highlight its downfalls. This game is for anyone that likes never-ending RPGs with a lot of depth and not much explanation. MHW forces you to figure things out on your own, and that is brilliant; there is no hand holding. If you haven’t played it yet, what are you waiting for?

Sound: 5/5

Gameplay: 5/5

Story: 4/5

Graphics: 5/5

Replay Value: 4/5

Total: 23/25, or 92/100